Budget Freezes Don't Guarantee Tax Cuts

No one likes property taxes. I don’t like them. I’m betting you don’t like them, too. They’re an imperfect way to pay for services a community needs, like roads, schools, and snow removal. The fact that they’re unpopular is exactly why the Idaho House moved yesterday to implement a one-year budget freeze on all taxing districts except for schools.

It sounds like a good idea. But that doesn’t mean it’s the right one for our communities. You deserve the facts.

Budgets Freeze, Property Assessments Don’t

A budget freeze for all taxing districts does not guarantee that your property taxes will decrease. It doesn’t mean your taxes will even stay flat in the coming year. What a budget freeze does guarantee is that you’ll end up paying property taxes for fewer services. This fact seems to have gotten lost in the debate.

A budget freeze means communities will have to cut expenses to stay within the prior year’s budget. That means more potholes, cuts to emergency services, and fewer office hours for local services.

I didn’t support this bill because it punishes responsible taxing districts, particularly in rural areas, who’ve stayed within their means. It represents an incomplete solution that leaves communities scrambling. Worse, those pesky property taxes are still there.

This freeze lowers the heavy hand of state government on our communities. It sends the message to our local officials that regardless of whether you do the right thing, the state may still come in and tell you how to do your job.

Property Taxes Need Reform

Yes, we need to reform Idaho property taxes. But it shouldn’t come at the cost of undermining responsible leadership at the local level.

My hope is that we can find a better way to hit the pause button. For example, a lower cap on the rate taxing districts can set for the next year. It creates the time people say we need to find a better option to the very real problem of unsustainable property taxes in our fastest-growing communities. This solution has my full support because it reduces the harm to our rural communities while creating an opening for a long-term solution.

I’m here to listen if you want to discuss your concerns. If you have other suggestions, please let me know. My intention today was to make sure you weren’t surprised later this year when you get your tax bill. If the House proposal becomes law, you may well see a larger bill for fewer benefits. And no one wants that.