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Many Idahoans got a property tax break in 2020. But what’s next?

Some Idahoans saw a decrease in their property tax bill in 2020, but it was likely one-time relief. 

In June, Gov. Brad Little announced he would use $200 million of federal COVID-19 relief funds to reimburse Idaho counties and cities for public safety costs. The move required local governments to pass the savings on to taxpayers.

The combination of Ada County, City of Meridian, City of Boise, and City of Garden City participating in the program gave $55 million in tax relief across the state’s biggest county. 

[Explain this to me: Inside Idaho’s complicated property tax system]

Ada County Treasurer Elizabeth Mahn said while residents are happy about this year’s bill, they already have their eyes on next year.

“People seemed grateful,” she said. “I know I’ve seen comments on checks and on phone calls saying ‘thank you for the savings’,” she said. “They do seem grateful, but people do ask, but what does this mean for next year? That’s an unknown at this point.”

To participate, localities had to agree not to take any of the 3% property tax increase allowed under Idaho code. Due to the economic pressures of the pandemic, many local government officials already looked at budgets without those increases before Little announced his plan. However, that doesn’t mean property taxes wouldn’t have increased with the rates staying flat. 

Tax shift strikes again

Especially in the Treasure Valley’s white-hot housing market, the value of residential property is increasing faster than commercial property and the tax burden is shifting to property taxpayers. This means without the rebate from Little and the federal government, homeowners would still have seen increases as their homes get more valuable in comparison to other properties. 

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

Mahn said every taxpayer in Ada County got some relief this year, even those in cities that did not participate in Little’s program. The cities of Eagle, Star and Kuna could not take the rebate directly since the county provides police services there – but the county passed on the savings.

Homeowners in Boise, Meridian, and Garden City saw roughly 10% reductions in their property tax bill, which combined both deductions from Ada County’s taxes and for their respective city. Mahn did not have average dollar figures for how much property owners in each city saved, but she said homeowners in Meridian saw the most savings. 

Lawmakers are expected to debate property tax reform in January after an interim committee spent a year studying solutions. The three proposals put forward by the committee are mostly focused on limiting local government spending. There was no proposal to index the homeowner’s exemption with inflation or increase aid to low-income seniors paying their property taxes in a state program called the circuit breaker.

[Some Boise homeowners pay hefty extra tax while neighbors don’t: How Idaho’s largest CID works]

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at margaret@boisedev.com or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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