This week, Gov. Brad Little gave local governments throughout the state an option to provide property tax relief to their residents. Back in April 2020, the state of Idaho received $1.25 billion from the federal government, under the CARES Act, in coronavirus relief funds. The state has now committed up to $200 million of those relief funds to support Idaho property owners.
The state will offer relief to property owners by providing a choice to local governments: Either use state money or local money to cover public safety costs — but not both.
Essentially, if a local government opts in to this state program, then the state will cover the cost that the local government usually incurs related to public safety personnel. In exchange for the state covering public safety costs, the local government would have to remove that cost from its property tax collection. In fact, the local government unit would be obligated to freeze its property tax collection to the amount it was last fiscal year as a condition of receiving this money from the state.
Thus, property taxes for Idaho residents would be reduced. In Little’s estimation, “that could mean a 10- to 20-percent reduction in your property taxes this year.”
This option for tax relief could mean a lot for Boiseans — if Boise officials let it.
Up until June 12, Boise city officials were contemplating taking a 2% property tax increase, augmenting the current economic strain on property owners. Rather than do that, Mayor Lauren McLean announced her proposal to freeze property tax collection. All the city has to do to meet McLean’s proposal is opt in to use CARES Act money instead of property tax dollars to cover what is normally a large cost for taxpayers — public safety.
In Boise, the city’s public safety bill runs to the tune of $98 million. At least for the FY 2020 budget, that is how much city officials project spending on personnel costs for their police and fire departments.
McLean clearly understands how harsh any property tax increase would be to Boise residents and businesses who had their source of income forcibly shut down for months. City councilors should consider her proposal and seize the opportunity to offer long-awaited property tax relief to Boiseans. Ultimately, the six city councilors will decide if residents are spared a property tax increase.