CANYON COUNTY, Idaho — In an effort to provide property tax relief to citizens of Canyon County, County Clerk Chris Yamamoto pitched a budget to County Commissioners that would include no money coming from property taxes. This proposed budget is for the 2023 fiscal year.
"What we're seeing here in Canyon County is rapidly rising residential values," Yamamoto said. "What we're trying to do is zero property tax at the county level, leave that money in the pockets of our citizens."
Yamamoto said his office and the Canyon County Assessor's Office have been working for the past two and a half years to get something through during legislation to help with rising tax property values. Being unsuccessful, he decided to do something for his county himself.
The proposed expenditure FY23 budget is $127,061,991. To help pay for it, the county has proposed to use $72,620,087 of non-property tax revenues and the rest from the general fund. The budget proposes the county take $54,441,904 from the county's general fund. Last year, Canyon County Commissioners voted to approve a little more than $8 million from the fund.
Currently, the county is sitting on a general fund of $92,572,991. Yamamoto said its become that high because county expenses have decreased from unfilled positions. He added the budget has taken into account the salaries if they were to fill those positions.
"I think we just want to help do what we can, I think now is the time, given what we're seeing with these values, given what we're seeing with inflation, we need to do what we can to help citizens of Canyon County," Yamamoto said.
If the budget is approved, it would leave about 30% of the general fund balance left over, a number Yamamoto said he is "comfortable" with.
While Yamamoto has a clear vision for the use of general funds, other departments around Canyon County see that money used elsewhere.
Canyon County Sheriff Kieren Donahue told KTVB in a statement Thursday that he would like to see more conversations surrounding "employees' salary compensations so they can afford to work here."
He believes some of the money from the general fund should be used in case of an emergency.
"As the Sheriff, I have close to 300 employees who account for roughly a third of the county workforce and I hear from them every day as employees and as local taxpayers. We see a crisis coming, and to protect public safety we can’t just hope it blows over; we have to prepare," read Donahue's statement.
"It is increasingly difficult for everyone to put food on the table and fuel in their cars in this economy, but the need for effective law enforcement and other mandatory government services don’t go away when times are tough."
Yamamoto's proposed plan does address employee compensation, with a $3,000 increase for every county position, including entry level.
"That's where we're having the most problem getting people, we also have a retention problem," Yamamoto said. "A good share of our competition for the same employees are paying more than we are."
While Yamamoto doesn't believe it will be a fix to employee salaries, he said it will help.
At the next budget meeting, the Canyon County Board of Commissioners will host elected officials to discuss the FY23 budget on July 25. Sheriff Donahue said he will be in attendance and looks forward to sharing his thought.
The Commissioners will meet three more times after that with a community input meeting on July 29, a consideration of approval of the FY23 budget meeting on August 5 and a public hearing on August 17.
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