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News >  Idaho

Assessment notices in the mail

Net property values in Kootenai County are estimated to have increased about $2.7 billion this year, intensifying North Idaho lawmakers’ attempt to find a way to keep property taxes affordable.

On Tuesday, the county mailed 77,342 assessment notices showing county property owners the value of their land and homes. Assessor Mike McDowell said perhaps 75,000 of those notices will reflect a change in valuation.

“It is a ‘wow,’ ” McDowell said. “It’s the largest increase ever, and I said the same thing last year. It’s scary to think about next year.”

The real estate market in North Idaho is hot, and that means buyers are paying more for property in Kootenai County than ever before. As a result, property values are soaring. When people pay inflated prices for property it makes it difficult for many other residents, especially retirees, to afford taxes on their homes, McDowell said.

“This kind of appreciation points to the need for some kind of property tax relief,” said McDowell, who added that the county is seeing more higher-end, luxury-type developments than ever and that’s having an impact on property values.

McDowell and local lawmakers aren’t giving up their attempt to change Idaho law to help keep taxes affordable for residents all over Idaho but especially those in resort areas like Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint.

The politicians had little luck during the 2005 legislative session as eight property tax relief bills were killed, none of which got a public hearing. Instead, Idaho legislators opted to have a summer study commission look into the issue.

Some North Idaho taxpayers who were counting on property tax relief don’t plan to wait for the Legislature to make a change and are discussing a possible voter initiative.

McDowell vows the fight is far from over.

He is on a local property tax relief task force formed by Republican Reps. Frank Henderson and Bob Nonini of Post Falls.

The group will look at ways to help Kootenai County find tax relief, and it will work with the legislative interim committee that will focus on all of Idaho.

“None of this is an easy thing to come up with,” Nonini said about any proposed legislation that may come out of either committee.

The joint legislative committee includes four North Idaho lawmakers and will be co-chaired by Sandpoint Sen. Shawn Keough.

According to the state Tax Commission, residential property owners paid 59 percent of the property taxes collected in Idaho in 2003, up from 47.1 percent in 1990. During the same time period, nearly every other type of property, including commercial, agricultural, mining and utility property, saw its share fall.

McDowell estimates that new property values in Kootenai County now total about $10.3 billion.

New development in Kootenai County added $332 million to the county’s tax base, which is up an estimated $62 million from last year.

The adjustments to the value of Kootenai County properties total more than $2 billion and reflect changes that have occurred in the real estate market in the last few years. The assessor’s office reviewed more than 5,900 sales in 2004 to establish the new assessments.

The adjustments show that people are paying more than in past years for commercial land and buildings within local cities, for manufactured homes on acreage, and for larger parcels outside city limits that haven’t yet been subdivided.

Kootenai County also has seen a spike in the value of float houses on Lake Coeur d’Alene and in Bayview on Lake Pend Oreille.

Chief Deputy Assessor Rich Houser said rural areas used to provide more affordable, entry-level housing for people, but that is changing as buyers pay more for these properties.

“We’ve seen a change in the last couple years,” Houser said.

McDowell said property owners should carefully review their assessment notices and call the assessor’s office with any questions or adjustment requests at 446-1500.

If property owners still feel the assessment is wrong, they can appeal to the Board of Equalization, which also is the Kootenai County Commission. The appeal deadline is June 27.

McDowell said he doesn’t expect an increase in appeals even though property valuations are increasing all over the county.

He said most property owners understand that the assessor’s office doesn’t control the market and that Idaho law needs changing to get people tax relief.

“There’s not much we can do unless the law is changed,” McDowell said.

“It’s a waste of people’s time to register tax protests with the Board of Equalization because there’s not a lot (the BOE) can do about that.”

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