Monday, July 6, 2009

Property Taxes

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about the economy, ACHD's budget and property taxes. Most people would obviously think that all three are related. They should be and they kind of are, but not really.

You see, there is no link between the value of someone's home as fixed by the assessor and the property tax that is levied by government. Presently home prices are falling because of the economy. The housing bubble has burst, many homes are in foreclosure, houses are not selling all that well and the assessor takes all this into account (theoretically) when setting the assessments. We know in Ada County that assessed values have fallen an average of 12%.

Do you think that your property tax will fall by 12%? If so, you probably will be wrong, actually, not probably - you would be wrong.

Local governments can set their budgets based on what the budget was last year and then can add another 3% on top of that. If say, you paid $1000 in property tax last year, you could theoretically pay $1030 this year even as your home has fallen in value, assuming the taxing government doesn't set their budgets to meet reality. Doesn't seem fair does it?

Doesn't it seem as though if unemployment is at almost 10%, if home prices (and the attendant equity) have fallen 12%, if the stock market and one's 401k has fallen precipitously in the last year, and if businesses are collapsing and those that aren't are really not hiring that government should not be looking to keep going along as if everything is still ok? I think so.

I think that it would be outrageous to not lower ACHD's expectations for property tax collections. I want to see ACHD tighten it's belt just like everyone else in Ada County. It doesn't matter if we are talking about saving someone $1.00 or $100.00. If every one of the taxing entities cut their expectations and their mill levy, the taxpayers of Ada County would have more money in their pockets, money that for many is sorely needed.

I'm going to be posting a lot on this topic in the weeks to come. I'm going to share statistics with you that might surprise you. I can't really affect any change at any place other than ACHD, but you can expect that I'll be vocal about the budget and the property tax at ACHD and I hope that the taxpayers will be as well. The economy is too bad for ACHD's budget to just be business as usual.


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