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Hayden Lake ballot measure seeks nearly $1M tax hike

Staff Writer | May 14, 2021 1:00 AM

The city of Hayden Lake is proposing to increase property taxes by nearly $1 million in the next fiscal year.

The measure that will be on Tuesday’s ballot says the estimated total of property taxes in the next fiscal year would be $1,128,991. It’s currently $159,195, so the new amount represents a hike of $969,796.

When asked by The Press what the money would be used for and why the tax increase was being proposed, Tina West, deputy city clerk/treasurer, said she could not comment. She said Mayor Jim Ackerman could not comment, nor could council members.

She did write to The Press: “Attorney Pete Bredeson and the Public Integrity in Elections Act prohibits us from saying anything that’s not already on the ballot or in the corresponding resolution. Also, the Resolution 133 and the ballot explain the basis for the increase.”

Bredeson also wrote an email to The Press.

“I am severely limited by the Public Integrity in Elections Act regarding what I can say about the ballot question at issue. Even so, I can state that the City’s current levy rate is amongst the lowest of all cities in the State of Idaho. Given that, the City is simply exercising its legal right to ask the voters to approve an increase in property tax revenues. The majority of such revenues would be used to repair and/or reconstruct City streets, most of which are in poor condition.”

Hayden Lake resident Jim King, also an attorney, said the city has “clearly failed to act transparently” in regard to the proposed property tax hike.

“What are they doing with taxpayers' money?” King said.

He said about 15 people showed up at City Hall for a scheduled meeting last week during which the proposal was an item to be discussed. The meeting was abruptly canceled, with those notified by a sign on the door. The Hayden Lake City Council is scheduled to next meet May 19 — the day after the election.

The ballot question reads: “Shall the city of Hayden Lake be authorized to increase its budget by an amount not to exceed the difference between .004 and the actual prior year’s levy multiples by the prior year’s market value for assessment purposes commencing with the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2021 and ending on Sept. 30, 2022.”

The resolution doesn’t specifically state the purpose of the funds. One line in the seven-page document states: “Also, over at least the last ten fiscal years, the City's property tax levy rate has not exceeded .004. The additional amount authorized by Idaho Code Section 63-802(1)(g) is needed to cover the current level of expenditures incurred by the City.”

King said he asked about the purpose of the tax increase but did not receive an answer.

He said the tax hike would be 7.2 times the current gross amount of property taxes.

Based on 800 residents, that means property taxes would go from about $200 a year to more than $1,400 a year.

“It doesn’t make sense,” King said.

King said he has heard that city officials were privately telling people to reject the proposal because of concerns about the way it was written.

The original resolution on the proposal was rescinded.

“On March 16th, 2021, the City Council approved Resolution No. 132 which authorized the special election referred to above,” the resolution reads. “However, subsequent correspondence with the Kootenai County Clerk necessitates revisions to such Resolution as set forth in this Resolution. Therefore, repeal of Resolution No. 132 is warranted at this time.”

Resolution 133 on the tax hike was approved by the council March 25.

The additional amount must be approved by 60% of eligible voters on May 18.

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