Levy rates on the rise
| December 11, 2010 8:00 PM
COEUR d'ALENE - Kootenai County sent out 88,025 property tax bills last month, and property owners in the cities will find a consistency.
All but one of the cities' levy rates - Worley's - increased this year, said county Treasurer Tom Malzahn, as did the rates for nearly all the other 32 taxing districts in the county.
That doesn't mean all property taxes will go up, though, Malzahn said.
"This is a difficult year to say with any specificity, 'Your taxes are going down, your taxes are going up,'" he said, adding that property taxes are determined by calculating individual property values with district levies. "That's all on the individual properties."
How much each city levy rate increased this year, Malzahn said, depends on both the size of the city's budget, and the change in total taxable value within its borders.
A taxing district's levy rate is set by dividing the district's budget by its total taxable value, Malzahn explained.
This year, with property values dropping and most districts boosting their budgets, some city levy rates bumped up more than others, Malzahn said.
"From '09 to '10, 40 (of the 45 taxing districts) increased their budgets," Malzahn said.
Post Falls was the only city to lower its budget this year. Yet the city's levy rate still increased, said city Finance Director Shelly Enderud, because the city's total taxable value fell from $1,769,437,302 to $1,565,781,189.
"We knew that they (the county) had done a large devaluation to our properties, so we were expecting the levy to increase, even though we didn't take an increase in taxes," Enderud said.
The city's levy rate bumped up from .49 percent in 2009 to .52 percent in 2010.
Post Falls has still managed to minimize the levy rate rise with broad budget cuts, Enderud added.
"We actually reduced some staff members," she said. "We reduced some areas within our operating for supplies and travel and other items. And there was no funding for any type of increases."
Hayden has maintained one of the lowest levy rates in the state, said City Administrator Stefan Chatwin, pointing to the rate that increased this year from .095 percent to .1 percent.
Chatwin attributed the increase to the city's drop in total taxable value, which fell from $996,741,690 to $894,813,015.
The city also adopted a 3 percent tax increase, he said.
"Considering what 3 percent of our current levy rate is, the average homeowner is seeing a smaller increase in the amount they pay in property taxes than in one of the neighboring cities with a 1.5 percent increase," he said.
Chatwin explained that Hayden offers fewer services than other cities, allowing a much smaller budget that translates into a smaller levy rate.
For instance, the city has no police department, he said.
"Coeur d'Alene, Post Falls and Rathdrum, they have police departments," he said. "If you compare how much of a budget is dedicated to law enforcement, you're reminded it's a pretty big chunk."
Coeur d'Alene's levy would have increased whether the city approved a tax increase or not, said city Finance Director Troy Tymesen.
"When values go down, levy rates go up," he said.
According to the county's value budget comparison, Coeur d'Alene's total taxable value fell over $367 million, from $3,421,065,512 in 2009 to $3,053,917,494 in 2010. The city increased property taxes 1.5 percent this fiscal year, which bumped Coeur d'Alene's levy rate up from .49 percent to .57 percent.
"We're going to (use the tax increase) to buy a little capital that we hadn't acquired a year ago when we had no capital. Fun things like a copy machine," Tymesen said.
Rathdrum's levy rate has increased conservatively, rising less than 2 percent over the last four years, said Brett Boyer, city administrator.
The modest levy rate increase from .4 percent to .47 percent this year is the result of careful budgeting, Boyer said.
"I think we've done more with less," he said. "We've also reduced three full-time positions while trying to maintain the same level of service."
The city did approve a 1 percent property tax increase this year for a new park, he added.
The city also increased its budget by $49,797 between 2009 and 2010, from $1,832,337 to $1,882,134.
Values in that time fell from $454,647,013 to $399,959,387.
"We don't want to fall behind on infrastructure," Boyer explained of budget increases. "But the council also recognizes that these are tough times and is trying to remain conservative."
Worley was the only city that saw its levy decrease, falling from .31 percent to .3 percent.
City administrators could not be reached on Friday afternoon, but according to the county's value budget comparison, Worley was the only city that boasted an increase in total taxable value, which rose from $5,855,736 to $6,927,233.
The city's budget also increased from $18,213 to $21,198.