After years of tax increases under Boise’s former mayor – the new mayor says she will change course.
By law, each city can elect to take up to a three percent property tax increase, plus any growth from new construction. Under former Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, the city took that three percent increase every year.
Now, Boise’s new mayor Lauren McLean said she will propose no tax increase this year. She earlier advocated for a two percent increase.
“Boise, we hear you loud and clear about needing property tax relief,” McLean said. “The City of Boise takes our role as stewards of the taxpayer very seriously. We know that property taxes are having a real impact on everyone and we’re working on creating meaningful relief.”
Property taxes are a complicated issue in Idaho. The Idaho legislature in 2016 changed the way it figures in a personal property tax exemption — which moved the burden for taxes from commercial businesses to residential property owners. In addition to cities, counties, school districts, community colleges and mosquito abatement districts all get a slice of property tax revenue.
McLean said this is the right move for the moment.
“We are in uncharted territory. My staff has been hard at work making sure that we are able to provide relief to the public at this difficult time, protect our strong fiscal management and invest for future recovery that our residents deserve.”
McLean will present the proposal to the city council next Tuesday. It will mean a $3.2 million impact to the budget, according to figures provided by the mayor’s office.
“It’s important in these unprecedented times to ease your property tax burden and find new ways to serve all residents as we create a 21st century city for everyone,” McLean wrote. “And we know that our city’s budget plays a role.”
During the campaign, BoiseDev asked McLean if she would consider not taking the full three percent Her answer, while still seeking votes, was not to make a promise.
“I think it’s super easy politics to say ‘I promise I would freeze (the tax rate)’, but that’s not what voters want in elected officials,” McLean told BoiseDev in November of 2019. “We need to have a more nuanced recognition that these are hard decisions that have to be made. I’m hearing around the city that residents want us to look at it, and I think we need to do it as a region.”
City council members in past meetings have asked the mayor to help the public understand what a lower property tax increase would mean to city services. The council must approve the budget and could elect to overrule McLean’s proposal.
“Thankful @boisemayor listened to City Council and will propose an amended budget,” Boise Council President Pro-Tem Holli Woodings wrote in a tweet. “We hear the struggles of Boiseans during #COVID19 including lack of unemployment compensation for so many and an unknown recession, and asked for a change of course.”