IDAHO CITY -- Boise County Commissioners are taking a multi-million dollar lawsuit debt to the county's voters for help.
After struggling for the past five years to pay-off a $5.4 million debt caused by a lawsuit with the ill-fated Alamar Ranch, commissioners say they finally have an option they hope the public will agree on.
Back in 2007, a federal judge ruled Boise County violated The Fair Housing Act when commissioners denied Alamar Ranch a plan to build a teen treatment center near Idaho City. The county has been struggling to try and pay for the lawsuit ever since.
On May 15th, voters will be asked to vote whether to hike their taxes to help pay off the debt faster. Commissioners say the move will help pay the county's remaining $3.15 million debt while saving hundreds of thousands in interest.
KTVB spent time in Idaho City Thursday talking with residents about the plan. While some welcomed the idea, others complained that they will pay even more in taxes.
Rick Call owns Diamond Lil's in the heart of Idaho City. Like most residents in town, he knows about the gaping hole in the county's budget caused by the lawsuit. He also knows about the upcoming county bond election.
“It's going to increase my property tax about $37 a year,” he said. “I don’t know what it's going to do to my business.”
So far, Boise County has paid $2.25 million of the $5.4 million awarded to Alamar Ranch. Because the county still owes $3.15 million -- and interest on that penalty is accruing at 5.5 percent -- the county shells out about $400 in interest each day.
Earlier this year, commissioners decided to cut those costs down, so they entered into an agreement with the Idaho Bond Bank to pay-off the remaining Alamar settlement.
County commissioner Terry Day was on the commission back in 2007 when the lawsuit ruling with Alamar took place. Day says if tax payers approve the measure, it will "save" the county.
“I have been dealing with this thing for about 5 years -- it's consumed my life,” Day told KTVB.
Kathy Staneart owns and operates Harleys' Pub in Idaho City's historic downtown. While Staneart complains that her taxes will go up, she also says the bond issue is "the only way to go."
“I don’t like it, and I am sure many of the citizens here don’t," Staneart told KTVB. "I have talked with many many of them; but we have got to do it."
For many in Boise County, living under the uncertain cloud cast by the Alamar Ranch settlement has been a troubling time.
Commissioner Day says residents have constantly wondered if taxes would increase, or if the commissioners would successfully appeal the case in court.
“If the vote is how I predict -- and we get the bond -- it’s going to save the county a whole lot of heartache," Day said. "Citizens with services -- the employees -- it’s just going to be an all-around good thing for the county."
Day says If approved, the proposed tax increase will last for seven years. He says when the county's debt is paid in full, those taxes will shift back to 2012 levels.