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Taxpayers on notice: Rates slightly rise in most taxing districts

Software blip strips about 40 residents of homeowner’s exemption

— After tax notices went out, last week, an unidentified area man noticed his homeowners exemption had gone missing. He reported the problem to the county assessor’s office on Nov. 22, and his diligence revealed a bigger problem. On Nov. 29, Idaho County deputy assessor Kim Nuxoll told the county commission and the Free Press about a computer error that inadvertently stripped as many as 40 local homeowners – mainly owners of mobile homes – of their exemptions.

Up to half the value of a home, up to $100,000 starting in 2017, is tax exempt under state law and the county is working to set those exemptions right. But because problems like these aren’t apparent until they’re spotted by those directly affected, officials routinely urge homeowners to check that their exemptions are correct. The assessor’s office can help, and can be reached at 983-2742.

Nuxoll and commissioner Mark Frei told the Free Press the problem arose when the state’s software separated some units from exempt property.

Area taxpayers who look closely might notice some other differences from last year.

A Free Press comparison of this year’s rates to last year’s found the rates taxpayers pay are ticking higher in 24 of 39 area taxing districts – not only the county, but cities, schools, cemeteries and highway districts. Rates ticked down in 15 taxing districts – a few by quite a lot.

Having raised the county levy amount 3 percent earlier this fall, the county is demanding $234 per $100,000 from area property owners – an increase of $5.72 per $100,000 – a hike of 2.51 percent in the rate taxpayers actually pay.

The county commission has long focused on controlling the levy amount, as the tax rate also depends on the assessed value of all the property in the district. The total taxable value of all property in the county grew, adding nearly $5 million to last year’s $1.26 billion, so the county’s 3 percent tax increase worked out to a smaller increase than expected.

In some districts, this year’s levies will take a lot less from taxpayers.

In the White Bird city district, where decision-makers trimmed more than $725,000 from the budget, tax bills are down $162.69 per $100,000 in assessed value from last year. Not that they’ll be throwing the assessors a parade anytime soon. A $100,000 Main Street property in White Bird still would owe the city $355 – and would owe several other districts as well.

Still, the White Bird city district tax rate remains nearly double what the Riggins city district demands. The Riggins city rate – already the lowest city district rate in the Free Press coverage area – now runs $13.29 per $100,000 lower than in 2015. A $100,000 Main Street property in Riggins would owe the city $189, on top of the county and other districts.

For comparison, a $100,000 Main Street property in Cottonwood owes the city $720 – up $45.95 per $100,000 compared to last year, and a $100,000 Main Street property in Grangeville owes the city $640 – up $21.45 per $100,000 compared to last year.

The rate owed every school district is either lower or essentially unchanged, as no school district levy in the Free Press coverage area amounted to a rate hike for its taxpayers. Mountain View School District 244, which serves mainly Grangeville and Clearwater River valley students, held the same levy amount for a fourth consecutive year – and growth in property values shaved the rate taxpayers pay $2.71 to $322 per $100,000.

The Free Press comparison looked at how rates have changed in 11 cemetery districts, and none of them has changed by more than $1 per $100,000. The biggest of these changes came in the Cottonwood cemetery district, where the tax bill gained 65 cents to $26.14 per $100,000. The Ferdinand cemetery district tax gained 46 cents to $7.87 per $100,000 – a 6 percent hike over last year.

Three of four area fire districts approved levies that will raise the dollar amounts taxpayers must pay by more than 3 percent, with Cottonwood, Grangeville and Kamiah higher and the Harpster district’s rate $1.57 lower to $61.81 per $100,000.

In the Free Press comparison, of the six highway district tax rates for which data was available through the Idaho Tax Commission website, the Greencreek district rate increased by more than 3 percent, four of the six decreased, and one – the Kidder-Harris highway district – increased 4.82 percent, rising 35 cents to $7.69 per $100,000.

[Ed's note: This article has been corrected. The White Bird city budget was reduced by $725,000, and the city's tax charge -- the levy amount -- dipped from slightly more than $20,000 in 2015 to $14,000 in 2016. Also, wording about the dollar amount exempt for homeowners has been changed for clarity. Presently, the homeowners exemption covers up to half the value of a home or a maximum exemption of $94,745 under state law. Also, wording regarding the effect of levy increases in three fire districts has been changed for clarity. -ao]


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