Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Kootenai County Assessor misses property roll deadlines

Staff Writer | August 6, 2022 1:08 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — The county assessor's office's delayed completion of 2022 property rolls has left Kootenai County taxing districts unable to finalize their budgets.

Idaho law requires that each county auditor release the final new construction roll by the fourth Monday in July and the remaining rolls by the first Monday in August. These property rolls detail appraisal values, which taxing districts use to create their budgets.

The rolls are meant to be provided to the county auditor by the assessor's office no later than the fourth Monday in June.

But the Kootenai County Assessor’s Office missed the June deadline and did not deliver the rolls to the auditor before that office's July and August deadlines.

In Idaho counties, the clerk serves as the county auditor and is responsible for preparing the annual county budget for the Board of County Commissioners.

In a memorandum issued July 22, Kootenai County Clerk Jim Brannon informed the county’s taxing districts that he’d learned the values would not be available in time for his office to meet its deadlines.

“I understand that this data is vital to your budget process, but everything pertaining to values comes from the Assessor and is then verified by the Auditor,” Brannon wrote.

That means all taxing districts in Kootenai County had to create preliminary budgets based on estimated revenue, rather than official data.

Kootenai County Assessor Béla Kovacs said in a memorandum issued Thursday that the delay was due in part to an extraordinarily high volume of assessment value appeals.

More than 700 Kootenai County property owners appealed their 2022 value assessments. Just 81 appeals were filed last year, while 76 were filed in 2020.

The original deadline for the county to complete the appeals was July 11, but the state granted an extension until July 19 for the Board of Equalization to address the numerous appeals.

Kovacs said the deadline had to be extended another week, until July 27, because of a processing error in his office.

Legislative changes that went into effect this year reportedly necessitated changes to the computer systems used by the assessor’s office. Kovacs said his office encountered problems while making the changes, causing further delays.

Kovacs indicated on Thursday that nearly all property tax rolls had been processed.

He said his office provided the completed values to the county clerk around 6:40 p.m. Friday.

Sandee Rudy, finance director for the city of Hayden, said she’s never seen this happen before.

“It is not normal,” she said.

Rudy said Hayden created a tentative budget based on high estimated property values in the hopes of adjusting down to the final figures when they became available.

“We tried to estimate new construction much higher than we thought it would be,” she said.

She noted that the unusually high number of assessment appeals contributed to the delay.

“I don’t know that there’s really anybody to blame,” she said. “It was just an unfortunate series of events.”

Christopher Way, the fire chief for Kootenai County Fire and Rescue, said the delay has had a major impact.

“We want to be transparent about our budget, but we’re not getting accurate information from the assessor’s office,” he said.

Idaho has a levy-based tax system. In this system, taxing districts set their budgets, determining the revenue each district needs.

The budgets of all taxing districts are totaled and then divided by the total sum of all property values in the boundaries of the taxing districts. That determines the levy rate.

The levy rate is then applied to each property in the taxing district’s area in order to calculate the individual tax charges for each property.

Taxpayers want to know what the levy rate is going to be, Way said — but for now, he can only work off a best guess. If property values hold true to his agency’s estimates, taxes may go down, he said.

“But I can’t say that for sure until I see the numbers,” he said.

Way said he’s as frustrated by the delay as the other taxpayers in Kootenai County.

“We’re in the same boat,” he said. “This has truly hindered our budget process.”

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