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Batt Heralds Tax-Relief Legislation Property Tax Bills See Lowest Increase In 14 Years

(From For the Record, Wednesday, November 8, 1995): A story in Saturday’s edition misstated the 1995 property tax revenue increases for Shoshone and Boundary county governments. Shoshone’s revenue is up 9.3 percent, and Boundary’s is up 7 percent. The Boundary County figure includes a voter-approved hospital bond levy. Without the bond levy, the increase would be 3.7 percent.

Gov. Phil Batt, on tax relief By Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer BOISE Gov. Phil Batt said Friday that his property tax relief legislation is working, with total property tax bills making their smallest increase in 14 years.

As total assessed property value in the state went up by $5.5 billion, or 14.2 percent, tax bills rose only a meager 1.9 percent.

“I think it’s worked exactly as we predicted it would,” Batt said. “In fact, it’s exceeded my expectations.”

Batt’s legislation, enacted last year, moved $40 million in public school funding from the property tax to the state’s general fund. It also placed a 3 percent cap on growth in local districts’ property tax collections, with exceptions for new construction and annexation and voter-approved tax overrides.

That means any district’s increase that is more than 3 percent has to be due to growth or voter-approved levies. Here’s how some North Idaho cities’ takes from property taxes changed this year:

Coeur d’Alene: Up 2.4 percent

Sandpoint: Up 9.1 percent

Kellogg: Up 6.8 percent

Wallace: Up 3 percent

St. Maries: Down 0.3 percent

Bonners Ferry: No change

A city’s levy is just one of the items that makes up a homeowner’s tax bill. Also included are taxes for counties, highway districts, school districts, and other districts that can tax. All are subject to the new legislation. The state Tax Commission said overall tax figures for North Idaho still are being tallied.

Anti-property tax activist Ron Rankin was unconvinced by Batt’s figures Friday. “This is not a tax cut,” Rankin said. “We want to see the amount of money that people pay lowered, not slowed down, not ease off the gas, but let’s stop and back up.”

Rankin said he’s pushing ahead with his latest One Percent Initiative to limit property taxes. “This is an aspirin for cancer,” he said of Batt’s changes.

Tax figures for county governments show most North Idaho counties will take in more money this year, mainly because of new growth. Expected tax collections are:

Boundary County: Up 8.6 percent

Bonner County: Down 3.5 percent

Kootenai County: Down 0.1 percent

Shoshone County: Up 16.9 percent

Benewah County: Up 6.8 percent

Latah County: Up 5.6 percent

Michael Ferguson, the governor’s chief economist, noted that counties such as Kootenai that had significant growth and didn’t increase their tax bills are showing “restraint.”

“People don’t like property taxes in this state. Anything we can do to relieve those and transfer those responsibilities to other sources we’re going to do,” Batt said.

He said the shift of a portion of school funding off the property tax was permanent, so the state will fund that portion again in the coming year.

But he said it doesn’t look like the state will have enough money to grant additional property tax relief in the 1996 legislative session.

, DataTimes

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