Like many Washington County residents, I just received my 2022 Assessment Notice on my home. Once again, my assessed property value has increased and so have my taxes.
We have lived in our home for five years and each year our taxes have gone up, in fact they have more than doubled. When does it stop? When do existing homeowners stop being penalized because others are willing to pay artificially inflated prices for homes?
There are relief programs for low- income seniors and individuals, but nothing for the average homeowner. The average homeowner has a mortgage with an account that includes the payment of property taxes. With the increase in property taxes, the amount needed for this account increases which results in a higher mortgage payment. Furthermore, since the tax notices are sent out mid-year for the current year, you will immediately have a shortfall in this account. So basically, you will need to double the amount of the increase in order to keep up, even then you could fall short if your taxes are raised again. Renters are also negatively affected by these increases because rental property owners will raise rents based on increased expenses including taxes.
The way property taxes are assessed in Idaho, based on fair market value, can’t be changed at the local level, but the tax rate(percentage) can. And this is where action needs to be focused because this is where a difference can be made. The county has lowered the tax rate in the past, but the decrease is so little that it does nothing to keep up with the increase in taxes because of artificially inflated market values.
Our county budget since I moved here in 2017 has increased from $13,125,061 to $17,700,864. That is almost a 23% increase in spending. Has your budget increased 23% over the last five years? Mine hasn’t. In fact, with the increase in property taxes and inflation, my budget has been greatly reduced and I have had to cut back on my budget. Why shouldn’t the county have to do the same? Especially from 2020 to 2022 when many Washington County residents were unable to work and had their livelihoods cut off because of government overreach with Covid. How can they justify increasing the county budget and increasing our taxes at a time when so many are struggling to just pay for necessities? How can the County justify spending more and offering nothing to better our lives while we are all doing with less?
We have all seen an increase in the cost of almost everything we need in daily life. Food, fuel, clothing, household goods, school supplies, utilities, you name it. People are struggling to afford the basics. These increases are out of the control of our county leadership, but property taxes are not. They can ease this burden on the citizens of Washington County. As stated, they can’t change the assessment process, but they can change what rate we pay on that which is assessed, and they should.
Every elected official when running for their seat claimed to want what is the best interest of the citizens of Washington County. Are unsustainable property taxes in our best interest? Is taxing a homeowner to the point that they can no longer afford their home in anyone’s best interest?
I encourage everyone in Washington County to call, write, or show up at the offices of our local elected representatives and tell your story. Demand action, not platitudes. Get with your neighbors, come up with a solution and get it on the agenda. Don’t let our local officials brush this off as a state law of which they have no options, because they do.
Christina Marie Stanley