Tax Relief

Debating tax relief: Enterprise Plus panel takes on sizzling subjects | Enterprise

TWIN FALLS — Is tax relief ever a possibility for Twin Falls homeowners? What should be done with the current surplus? How much growth should Twin Falls take on while still maintaining a high quality of life?

A panel of experts discussed a wide range of complex topics during the annual Business Plus meeting Thursday evening.

Growth, property taxes, impact fees, critical services, and aging infrastructure were all topics on the table.

“There’s got to be a formula that would help,” said retired state Rep. Maxine Bell, who moderated the discussion. “We can hope that there is, but hope is not a strategy, so perhaps they have some strategies for that.”

The panel included Associated Taxpayers of Idaho President Miguel Legarreta, District 25 Rep. Clark Kauffman, Twin Falls City Administrator Travis Rothweiler and Twin Falls County Assessor Brad Wills.

Associated Taxpayers of Idaho is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit that works on behalf of Idaho’s taxpayers, Legarreta said. Looking back, during the 2021 legislative session a lot of positive things were accomplished in terms of taxes, he said.

In March, the Idaho House approved an income tax cut that lowered Idaho’s top corporate and individual tax brackets from 6.925% to 6.5%.

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A hot topic during the 2022 legislative session will be property taxes, Legarreta said.

“It’s the theme. It’s the theme legislators are hearing, it’s the theme that you as homeowners or business owners are interested in,” he said.

There have been discussions about looking for other options to pay for services besides property taxes. One idea was using sales taxes instead of property taxes because of the increase in outside revenue coming into the state, Legarreta said.

Rothweiler told residents that federal CARES Act funding is one reason why their property tax bill might be surprising this year. Because of the pandemic, Twin Falls, Kimberly and Buhl all received CARES Act funding. That money was used to give residents a 10% reduction on their property taxes.

But because of rising property values, most people will still pay more.

“When you take a look at your property tax notice this year and compare it to last year, inside of the city of Twin Falls, I absolutely guarantee it’s going to increase,” he said.

Another factor the city is dealing with is providing services to people who live outside the city.

Half the people who the city provides services to actually reside inside the city, Rothweiler said. During the day, the population surges from 50,197 to upwards of 103,000 people.

“Those who reside here, those who have businesses here, are paying to support and provide services to a population base that is roughly double its population,” he said.

Protecting all those people is also a challenge.

The city of Twin Falls has 78 sworn officers, he said. On Thursday, the Department of Justice announced a grant that will help the city hire four new officers in the near future.

Currently, the officer-to-community ratio is 1.48 officers per 1,000 people.

“Then, when you think how the community doubles, the number of officers per thousand diminishes to below one,” Rothweiler said. “In fact, it’s about .77.”

Property taxes are the main tool for paying for growth, he said.

A common analogy is the three leg stool metaphor. To survive, things need multiple avenues of support, just like the three legs of a stool. For local governments, that’s not a reality, he said.

“We have a one-legged stool and we have property taxes,” he said.

The city wants to find a way to expand the tax base to spread out who is absorbing the tax rates.

A few of the audience members asked Rothweiler about a local option sales tax. He said he is prohibited by the Idaho Legislature from asking about one.

Under current law, “resort cities” can, if the voters approve, levy an extra sales tax above the state’s. Other cities do not have the option.

“We espouse the importance of local control and l believe local communities should be able to determine how they want to be taxed,” he said.

If Twin Falls was able to apply an additional tax of 1%, it would bring in $12.5 million in total sales tax, Rothweiler estimated. A portion of that could be offered as tax relief.

Wills, the Twin Falls County assessor, said it’s important to remember that locally, 24% of property taxes go to schools.

“Fortunately, Idaho has the fairest property tax system in the country,” Wills said.

In California, there is legislation that sets the assessed value of a property at its purchase price and not current market value. The assessed value of the property resets to market value only after the property is sold, he said.

This can create a scenario where two homes with the same market value could have different tax assessments if one was last sold in the 1980s and another in the 2000s.

Both Wills and Kauffman brought up House Bill 389 from the 2021 legislative session.

Focused on property taxes, the bill will impact the circuit breaker program starting in 2022. This program provides reduced property taxes to the elderly, disabled and widowed taxpayers.

House Bill 389 added a provision that disqualified individuals from the circuit breaker program whose home value is 125% of a county’s median price.

This means in Twin Falls County, where the median price of a home was $345,000 in October, people whose home value is above $431,250 would be excluded from the program.

Wills said legislators had good intentions but it has unintended consequences.

“House Bill 389 was massive and it was late and it was onerous and it was good and it was terrible and parts of it really need to be fixed,” Kauffman said.

He received a question from the audience about how Idaho should spend the current surplus. In July, Gov. Brad Little announced that the state ended the fiscal year with a record surplus of nearly $900 million.

“The caution I would use if it’s one-time money don’t put it into something that requires continuous spending,” he said.

It is a legislator’s job to listen and Kauffman said being on the panel was a great opportunity to hear concerns on a local level.

The final discussion point of the meeting was public transportation. Members of the community have inquired about a bus system, however, Rothweiler said paying for it is difficult.

“So no one likes to pay property taxes, right?,” he said. “And the only source of revenue I have to pay for a public transportation system to get critical matching funds is property taxes.”

A public transportation system would also most likely not alleviate traffic congestion because it would have to stay inside of the city because of financial constraints, he said.

“Right now, the clock is ticking for us and we don’t have a financial solution to be able to provide public transportation in Twin Falls,” he said.

PHOTOS: BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’

BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’

BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’ during its annual meeting Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Twin Falls.



BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’

BusinessPlus presents 'Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments'

Steve Millington, former Twin Falls County GOP Chairman, holds up a hand out from Twin Falls City Manager Travis Rothweiler during the annual BusinessPlus meeting on Thursday in Twin Falls.



BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’

BusinessPlus presents 'Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments'

Miguel Legarreta, president of the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho, speaks during the annual BusinessPlus meeting, ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’ on Thursday in Twin Falls.



BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’

BusinessPlus presents 'Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments'

The Twin Falls County Assessor’s office display old maps druing the BusinessPlus annual meeting, ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’ on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Twin Falls.



BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’

BusinessPlus presents 'Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments'

BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’ during its annual meeting Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Twin Falls.



BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’

BusinessPlus presents 'Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments'

BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’ during its annual meeting Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Twin Falls.



BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’

BusinessPlus presents 'Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments'

BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’ during its annual meeting Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Twin Falls.



BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’

BusinessPlus presents 'Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments'

BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’ during its annual meeting Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Twin Falls.



BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’

BusinessPlus presents 'Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments'

BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’ during its annual meeting Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Twin Falls.



BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’

BusinessPlus presents 'Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments'

From right, moderator and former Idaho Rep. Maxine Bell speaks with Rep. Linda Hartgren at the annual Business Plus meeting.



BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’

BusinessPlus presents 'Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments'

BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’ during its annual meeting Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Twin Falls.



BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’

BusinessPlus presents 'Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments'

Travis Rothweiler, Twin Falls city manager, hands out his talking points during the annual BusinessPlus meeting, ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’ on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Twin Falls.



BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’

BusinessPlus presents 'Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments'

BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’ during its annual meeting Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Twin Falls.



BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’

BusinessPlus presents 'Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments'

BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’ during its annual meeting Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Twin Falls.



BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’

BusinessPlus presents 'Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments'

BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’ during its annual meeting Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Twin Falls.



BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’

BusinessPlus presents 'Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments'

BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’ during its annual meeting Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Twin Falls.



BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’

BusinessPlus presents 'Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments'

BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’ during its annual meeting Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Twin Falls.



BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’

BusinessPlus presents 'Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments'

BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’ during its annual meeting Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Twin Falls.



BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’

BusinessPlus presents 'Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments'

BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’ during its annual meeting Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Twin Falls.



BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’

BusinessPlus presents 'Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments'

BusinessPlus presents ‘Where Economic Development and Growth meet: Taxes, State and Local Governments’ during its annual meeting Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Twin Falls.



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