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Don’t like way property taxes soar? Here’s what to do

| June 12, 2020 1:00 AM

Steve Matheson, we salute you.

Kootenai County’s treasurer had his doubts about urban renewal practices in our community, and with sincere concern he pushed the county’s commissioners to place an advisory question on the May 19 primary election ballot:

“Do you support the use of Urban Renewal Districts (URDs) in Kootenai County?”

Matheson admits that he was surprised by the strong “yes” victory — 18,221-13,585 — but said, “I’m happy my voice was heard. I accept the results, and I’m more positive about urban renewal districts now than I ever was before.”

Matheson’s concerns to begin with came from a good place — complaints from residents worried about their rapidly increasing property taxes. URDs definitely play a role in that scenario.

For the years that an open district’s improvements make their property more valuable, those extra tax dollars do not go to the usual recipients, like Kootenai County, North Idaho College, public school districts and many more. That means when the county, NIC and school districts raise taxes, it puts a little more pressure on other property owners — you, your neighbors, your friends.

And that’s why when a district closes, there’s much rejoicing as all those extra dollars flow proportionately to the tax base, not the urban renewal agency. It’s a long-term investment, from a few years on some Post Falls projects to a couple of decades in Coeur d’Alene, that for some citizens won’t begin to pay them back nearly soon enough to be considered a good deal.

We suggest that there’s another, better way to deal with rising property taxes than to cripple one of the few good tools communities have to strengthen their local economy, quality of life and tax base at the same time. Pay attention and get involved.

Look at your latest assessment notice from the county. It’s likely dated May 29, 2020.

On that notice is the assessed value of your property, comparing last year’s to this year’s. But also on that notice is a list of every entity in the county that takes a portion of your property taxes. In addition to naming those entities, the phone number of each taxing district and the date and time of their public budget hearings is included.

We’re now entering the summer budget hearing schedules for almost every taxing district. If a fraction of the people who have complained to Treasurer Matheson would show up at these hearings and speak out, their voices would be impossible to ignore.

One other note: You still have time to appeal your assessed property value, but you shouldn’t wait long. The deadline to file your written appeal is June 22 at 5 p.m. See your assessment notice for the particulars.