With rising property taxes a hot topic, Boise looks to change process to consider yearly increase

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“We are a large number on that bill. We can explain away, well, ‘the county did this and the mosquito district did this,’ but the reality is they see that number, and that’s why we have arrows pointed at the city.”

During a taping of the BoiseDev podcast last week, new mayor Lauren McLean spoke at length about property taxes, and Boise’s role. Figures released by Ada County show cities make up 30.5% of total tax collections citywide – second only to schools.

The City of Boise takes in the highest amount – $158.32 million in property tax collections. That represents 66.1% of the city’s general fund revenue.

Courtesy Ada County

By statute, Boise, like any city, can increase its property tax levy by an amount up to three percent each year. In recent years, the city elected to take that additional amount each year.

Any tax increase that a city or other taxing district elects to take not only has an impact in the first year – but compounds over time.

In a FAQ on its website published before the change in leadership, the city tacitly acknowledges it will take the 3% increase each year with a Q&A on why the city “opt(s) to take the 3% property tax increase each year.”

[Explain This to Me: How 2016 legislation shifted property tax burden from commercial land to homeowners]

A new process

But with a new mayor and two new city council members, the process will change.

“We want to have a more robust discussion around property taxes and allow for adequate conversation around what the city might do to effectuate change on property tax bills and some of the drivers,” City of Boise Eric Bilimoria said during a presentation earlier this week.

In the past, the city started with direction from the council and mayor, then built its budget based upon that. Now, instead, the city will come up with multiple budget scenarios as it invites public feedback and makes decisions on whether to raise the levy rate – and by how much.

“We have to understand what the property tax increases mean to people,” McLean said. “We also have to understand what the choice not to raise them at the same levels mean to services.”

“I do know there is a lot of emotion around this issue. There is a lot of nuance in this conversation, and emotion will enter into it with affordability and things of that nature,” city council president Elaine Clegg said. “We do want to allow time to have a robust dialogue around this topic both with the public as well as with the city council.”

What exactly the process for engagement will look like going forward isn’t set.

“Some scenarios we talked about are a series of town halls, making sure anyone who wants to participate has the means and availability in that process,” Bilimoria said.

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