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Idaho property taxes raise concerns about stability for homeowners

Due to rising property values in Idaho, the effective tax rate is down; but the rate of increase in the average tax bill is among the highest in the U.S.

BOISE, Idaho — Local leaders are calling for more stability in property taxes.

Property taxes are levied by all sorts of taxing districts, like road and school districts to improve roads and build schools. If you think you're paying more in property taxes right now, you're likely right.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, back in 2016, the average Idaho property owner was paying $1,397 a year in property taxes. That jumped to $1,817 in 2021. That's the 8th biggest jump in the country. But incredibly, our property tax rates, on average, have plummeted.

The effective property tax rate went from 0.74 percent to 0.49 percent in Idaho. That's a huge drop, but most of us are still paying more taxes. Essentially, that's because the value of all our property is skyrocketing. We're paying for a smaller percentage, or piece, of a much larger pie.

But again, those are averages, because some people are paying less in property taxes and some people's rates are going up. Although, all that will change with the next fiscal year. And it's that rollercoaster that frustrates local leaders like Meridian Mayor Robert Simison. He says it shows a major flaw in Idaho's property tax system, "Our system doesn't provide stability, overall. It's really like say, the price fluctuations of values throughout the system, that's what's really impacting residents. 

"It's like when we go buy a car. When you go buy a car, just like when you buy a house, we know what our mortgage payments are expected to be. Our variables are insurance, our gas payment, and our repairs," Simison said.
"It's no different in houses, except for taxes. Taxes are where we're seeing the variability in what people are paying. And if we can have a little bit more predictability by taking out some of the things that can impact the swings, I think that'd be the best for homeowners."

But what would that take? Well, the mayor says leaders should start with one of the main issues Meridian, and all communities in the area, have seen. That is a shift to residential property owners shouldering more of the tax burden and commercial property owners shouldering less. The mayor, and leaders like him, would like to see that trend reversed.

"So, there's things that we've talked about trying to do, to work with the Legislature,” said Mayor Simison. “One of the main things is maybe setting up a levy system where you have residential and commercial levies. So, we try to eliminate the shift between the two. So, you have residential versus residential, commercial versus commercial. And if they go up, then you can kind of work within that framework."

There might be some good news. The numbers for Ada County for this coming fiscal year are coming out this week. According to the Ada County Assessor, there is a shift in the other direction, to commercial property owners shouldering more of that burden.

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