MADISON COUNTY − At Wednesday’s Rexburg Area Chamber of Commerce meeting chamber members spoke with Reps. Doug Ricks, R-Rexburg, and Britt Raybould, R-Rexburg, and Senate President Pro Tempore Brent Hill, R-Rexburg. Each discussed a number of bills and issues that may affect the Upper Valley.
One issue, in particular, came up more than once — House Bill 409. This “Adds to existing law to provide a limitation on taxing district budget requests and levies for the year 2020.”
Ricks said the freeze would not include schools and that it would last for one year.
The bill was created in the hopes of slowing down a rise in property taxes due to a rapidly growing Idaho. However, the bill may put the tax burden on residents living in areas like Madison County.
Ricks said Idaho is growing faster than people can handle, especially those on fixed income. He said the bill will probably put more constraints on areas growing the fastest and that includes Madison County.
“We all look for ways that we can be more fiscally responsible and to cut property taxes, that would be awesome,” Commission Chairman Jon Weber said. “The fact of the matter is as a growing community how do we maintain the level of service, how do we pay for unexpected expenses? As I mentioned we may be facing a new women’s roof on the jail this year.”
Weber said the county still has to provide emergency services to the growing community. He said They’re working with a cap on the ambulance levy and they are in need of a new ambulance and still have to replace old equipment.
“These are things we budget for and have reserves for,” he said. “And those reserves came over time. It’s not like one year we just socked a bunch of money away. So our fear is this: if we freeze the budgets what level of service do we cut?”
According to a press release from the Idaho Joint Democratic Caucus, the Taxation Committee sent House Bill 409 to the House floor on Thursday. Representative Lauren Necochea (D-Boise) and other Democrats on that committee voted against the motion to send the bill to the House.
“HB409 will not solve Idaho’s property tax problem. In fact, your property taxes will continue to increase because property tax assessments will continue to increase.” Necochea said. “Democrats are committed to correcting the dramatic property tax shift to homeowners. Serious conversations about property tax reform need to include updating the homeowner’s exemption, expanding our property tax assistance program (known as the circuit-breaker), and impact fees that will allow growth to pay for growth. I am not supporting this bill on the floor because it will not decrease property taxes and it is not a meaningful solution.”
Hill said the bill doesn’t solve everyone’s problem and property taxes is a tough issue. He said those who have been the most careful with their budget will be hurt the most by this bill.
“I just don’t want to come up with something that harms those families and those municipalities that have actually been acting very responsibly,” Hill said. “You put a freeze on − who does it hurt the most? It hurst those who have been the most careful. Who have been frugal in the past and are just barely trying to get by without having to raise property taxes anymore than absolutely necessary.”
Raybould said she and the other local legislators will be having a townhall meeting at the Madison County Courthouse on Saturday, Feb. 29, at 10 a.m. residents are encouraged to attend and ask questions.