Rising property taxes, balanced county budget

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SANDPOINT – As part of the newly approved FY2022 budget, property owners will see a 4.7% increase in taxes – an average of $ 61. County Clerk Mike Rosedale and County Commissioners held two meetings in late August to discuss the upcoming budget and citizens’ land issues.

“After the first stage of budgeting, we were about $ 4.3 million short,” Commissioner Dan McDonald said at the meeting. “We had to find a way to find $ 4.3 million. “

There are three ways in which the commissioners, the clerk’s office and all the other county departments have worked together to balance the budget. Collecting lost taxes is one of them – closing that gap of $ 2,735,040, making it the biggest gap in the deficit.

Lost taxes are funds that were never collected, but the state still keeps track of potential revenue through a levy. A levy is defined by the Internal Revenue Service as “the legal seizure of property in order to satisfy a tax debt”. Property taxes are supposed to increase by 3% each year to keep up with inflation, according to the state levy. Bonner County has not significantly increased property taxes in the past eight years, according to information provided by Rosedale at the August meeting. Bonner County had previously chosen not to collect the additional 3%, but things will change next year.

“We have kept the budget at the same level for the past 3 years, but there have been a number of changes that have occurred,” said McDonald. “One, first and foremost, and I’m sure everyone has noticed that if you’ve bought something, inflation kills us.”

In addition to inflation, county officials cited new state legislation that will take effect next year as a factor contributing to the size of the deficit.

“The state passed a few laws this year that really crippled us,” said McDonald, “one of them was about Panhandle Health.”

House Bill 316 requires counties to pay 100% of funds required by their respective health district, namely Panhandle Health in Bonner County. In return, the counties decide whether to promulgate the orders given by the health district.

“They also included in the bill that we do not have the ability to cut their budget. So we don’t have a chance to go to them and say, “You have to figure out how to do more with less,” McDonald said. “Add to that the way they hit us on new builds. Over the past three years we have used new construction dollars to offset inflation and this is how we have been able to keep the budget stable.

Another law, HB389, in a nutshell, prevents counties from counting the full cost of construction as revenue. Counties now have to choose between recording a higher percentage of construction costs as revenue or collecting lost taxes.

“When they passed the law, it didn’t allow us to take 100% of new construction. We only got 90%. It was a pretty good success in itself, ”Commissioner Jeff Connolly said in an interview.

“The state has talked about essentially handcuffing counties that have tried to live as frugally as possible,” McDonald said at the meeting. “And in doing that, there is now this rush of counties, or some of them anyway, rushing to use what they have lost.” McDonald said.

“Under state law, we have the ability to go back and achieve anything that we haven’t taken over the years,” he added. “We don’t like to rip off homeowners, we don’t want to raise taxes and we’ve been successful so far. Unfortunately, we got stuck in a corner.

McDonald said the county had to make a choice between raising taxes or cutting essential services.

“So we were stuck with the tough decision to say, ‘Okay, we’re going to have to succumb and take a step back. “

While the $ 2,735,040 in lost taxes significantly reduced the deficit, it was not enough to eliminate it. The roughly $ 1.6 million was resolved through cooperation between all county departments in the form of cost cutting and raising money from the most funded departments,

McDonald’s credited the departments with making income and making sacrifices, especially the highways and bridges department and the sheriff’s office.

“We got all the department heads and elected officials together again for a department heads meeting and said, ‘So listen, guys, we’ve got problems here, we’ve got to find a way to make more cuts.’ “, did he declare. “We were able to pull about a million dollars out of the budget. “

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