NAMPA – Twelve properties in Ada and Canyon counties worth almost a million dollars collectively, owe taxes on unpaid irrigation.
If the bills aren’t paid, the properties will be auctioned off for a fraction of the value, by the Nampa and Meridian Irrigation District later this August.
Daren Coon serves at the secretary and treasurer for the irrigation district and said one of the biggest challenges is getting the word out to people that are disconnected to the property.
“They might be absentee property owners, they might be in layers of mortgage companies,” Coon explained.
The delinquent taxes on the 12 properties total just $6,488.40 and the tax deed sale, mandated under Idaho law, sets the minimum bid for each property at the amount of taxes owed plus expenses related to the delinquency.
The property owners can avoid their property being sold by paying the taxes due prior to the opening of the bids, according to Coon.
Most property owners do pay with just a couple of properties actually being sold over the past several years.
“We sold two properties last year,” Coon said.
Seven of the properties are in Nampa, three in Meridian and two in Boise, and that is where KTVB found Erlene Arnold, a resident on Cabarton Lane.
“So I kept throwing it away, and throwing it away and throwing it away,” said Arnold.
She's lived in her home for 18 years and explained that her husband used to pay that bill, but when he passed away a few years ago she didn't know what it was for.
“(I thought) this is kind of a fluke and start throwing it away because you wouldn't pay attention to it because we don't have irrigation,” said Arnold.
As her tax deadline approached those with the Nampa and Meridian Irrigation District kept sending Arnold letters along with phone calls, finally they informed her that her house would go to the auction block on August 19 if she didn't take action on that bill.
“I am mad about it but I have no choice because then my $250,000 home got up on auction for what? Maybe $20,000 or $30,000,” said Arnold.
Coon says the district goes to great lengths to make sure no one's property is auctioned off, but the hands of the district are tied to Idaho state law because the requirements to recover tax money are specific.
"Our experience is that many newcomers mistakenly believe the district's tax assessment need only be paid if they actually use irrigation water. But that is just not the case. Idaho law specifies that all property owners in the district are to help pay the costs of maintaining the irrigation system, whether they use water or not. In addition, some property owners wrongly believe the irrigation tax payment is part of their escrow tax payment being made by the mortgage company," Coon said. “I remain hopeful that all these properties will clear up.”
Arnold will be one of those properties with a tax bill stricken from the overdue list; she said her bill will be mailed off this week, to ensure her home is not lost.
She thanks the determined folks at the irrigation district office.
“She called me and kept calling me, and I am sending her a thank you card for being persistent with me so I wouldn't lose my house,” she said.
A certified letter warning of the pending tax deed action was mailed June 22 to the property owners in addition to several other written notices.
The final warning will come with large advertisements running for three consecutive days in the two local daily newspapers.
Although it is not required, Nampa and Meridian Irrigation District officials also typically take the extra step of trying to find and personally notify the property owners.