The story was published on June 16 on idahocapitalsun.com
Shondi Mortimer bought her home in northwest Boise for $289,500 in 2016 while still married and pregnant with their sixth child.
Now, as a divorced single mom with three boys still living at home, she received her property tax return in the mail, which valued her home at $609,700 — up $90,000 since 2021.
She’s not the only Ada County resident to find a sticker shock with an assessment notice. Ada County Evaluator Bob McQuade said the median increase for the 2022 tax year is 30%, meaning half of the county’s parcels are higher and half are lower. Across all property types, taxable value increased nearly $27.7 billion this year after increasing about $15 billion the year before.
Although dollar amounts for real estate appraisals tend to be the highest in Ada County, values in several populous Idaho counties have increased significantly, particularly between 2021 and 2022. In Canyon County, the taxable value of all real estate increased by approximately $10 billion compared to $3 billion increase last year.
Another hotspot for real estate appreciation is Kootenai County, where taxable values have nearly doubled from $26.7 billion to nearly $47 billion since 2021.
Even in Bannock County in east Idaho, a more rural area where taxable values increased by only $500 million from 2019-2020, the total taxable value increased by $2.5 billion between 2021-2022. And in Twin Falls County, values rose 37% last year from $7.4 billion to $10.2 billion after rising about $1 billion the year before.
Boise homeowners worry about affordability as taxes rise
Property tax dollars fund things like schools, roads, emergency medical services, mosquito control, and city and county government services, and each Idaho county uses a pay-as-you-go formula to determine the amount of property taxes it will collect.
Because property taxes are a local tax and all dollars remain in the city or county, a resident’s taxes may go up, down, or stay the same depending on where the home is located. In Mortimer’s case, her appraised worth went from $401,900 in 2019 to $422,900 in 2020, but her taxes fell by $263.
All values are subject to change across Idaho through July 1 before the fiscal year ends, but assessment notices should be sent to residents the first week of June. Exact tax increases or decreases is determined meanwhile, as cities and counties finalize their budgets for the next two weeks.
Mortimer worries those taxes could rise significantly as she grapples with ongoing fatigue and chest pain from her 2020 battle with COVID-19. The virus left her bedridden and unable to work for four months, and she had to ask her mortgage company for leniency to suspend her payments.
Long COVID’s symptoms are improving and she is able to work full-time, but she is aware of how tense her situation is.
“As long as I don’t get worse with COVID (symptoms), I think I’ll be fine,” Mortimer said. “If I got sick again and missed work for another four months, I wouldn’t be.”
McCall-Retiree Blames Idaho Legislature for Failing to Find Solution
In Valley County, where Lori Gibson-Banducci lives as a retiree, her home rose in value from $838,000 to $1.1 million last year.
Overall, the value of real estate in Valley County skyrocketed from $6.3 billion in 2021 to $10.3 billion in 2022 after increasing just $1 billion from 2020 to 2021 .
She said she blames the increases in part on the Idaho legislature, noting that she wrote to her representatives several times during the legislative session earlier this year to no avail.
Members of the Idaho Legislature introduced a bill aiming to lower property taxes by raising the sales tax, but did not get a Senate hearing before the March session ended. Lawmakers also passed a bill in 2021 aimed at lowering property taxes by targeting and restricting city budgets. While many calls have been made for the legislature to pass legislation that establishes the homeowner’s exemption from current market values, these efforts have failed. Legislators passed a bill in 2021 increase in liberation from $100,000 to $125,000 as a lump sum, but many lawmakers have criticized the bill, saying it doesn’t go nearly far enough to help homeowners with tax breaks.
“It’s really frustrating to me that the Legislature had the opportunity to fix this in a comprehensive and substantive way and they chose to focus on all sorts of other cultural issues that really don’t impact the day-to-day lives of Idahoans.” said Gibson-Banducci. “And in the meantime, those of us who own or rent will pay the price.”
Gibson-Banducci thinks the valuation of her McCall-area home is probably accurate, but she plans to appeal the valuation of her condo in Boise’s North End, which has risen 25%. She said the valuation of $421,800 is a much higher amount than comparable units and she plans to appeal.
That process isn’t easy, she said, because to get the most accurate data, she had to ask a few friends in the real estate industry for the price of comparable sales in the right time frame.
“It doesn’t make sense to me that we would have to go to a real estate agent to get the information,” Gibson-Banducci said.
Idaho is one of 10 states that has no disclosure laws around real estate transactions, regardless of the type of property. The information provided is strictly voluntary or available to the Assessor’s office through the Intermountain Multiple Listing Service. In Ada County, that’s enough data to make accurate estimates, but it may have widened the gap between the property tax burden on residential and commercial properties, for which sales data is much more difficult to obtain.
Valuation is high in Treasure Valley counties and low in others
According to McQuade, many more Ada County taxpayers appealed their assessment this month than they did at this point in 2021. In 2021, 93 residents filed an appeal with the county, the fewest in 22 years. As of Monday, McQuade said 195 residents filed an appeal. In general, appeals are successful about 25% of the time, he said, but he’s confident this year’s ratings are accurate based on the available housing data.
In Canyon County, systems analyst Steve Onofrei said 818 calls requesting property tax assessments have been received since early June, and while the county has received 79 requests for assessment appeals, only five have been completed so far. Onofrei said those numbers are about average compared to previous years.
Anita Hymas, Bannock County’s chief deputy assessor, said the bureau has received 436 calls since June 9, but only about 21 appeals have been filed so far.
“We really try to reach out to a lot of people and help them as much as we can. We look at their reviews and make sure there aren’t any mistakes in them,” Hymas said.
Higher-value homeowners are the ones who will feel the pinch the most, Hymas said, because homeowner exemption is capped at such a low amount compared to today’s market values.
In Twin Falls County, Assessor Brad Wills said, this is the time of year when hundreds of appeals are typically filed, but so far the county has only recorded nine formal appeals. Lots of people are calling with questions, he said, but it hasn’t resulted in more appeals.
“We find that a lot of people get upset when they call, but once we talk to them, they understand,” Wills said. “They just want to make sure that we haven’t made a mistake on their one property, that all the others have undergone a significant change.”
counties are required by state law To value property at full market value at the time of valuation with a margin of error of 10% over or under market value which would be based on 2021 figures for tax year 2022. The 2023 tax year is based on the 2022 market values.
This can be especially confusing given that there are fewer homes for sale in the Treasure Valley area. According to data from Boise Regional Realtors, closed home sales in Ada County fell 5.8% in May compared to the same period last year. Pending sales were also down 12.7% and have declined every month since May 2021.
But that doesn’t mean that prices are going down. The average selling price for homes in Ada County reached $602,250 in May, up 16.1% from May 2021 and a new record.
Meridian City Council says it’s important to get involved in the budgeting process
Meridian Councilman Luke Cavener grew up in Meridian and remembers when he was a teenager he had to stop mowing a neighbor’s lawn because the city was increasing her water rates and she couldn’t afford to pay him the $6 pay he earned from her more. It is such inhabitants that he regards as the city sets its budget and decides whether to raise the property tax rate by the legally permitted 3%, as the city council will begin Thursday night.
Cavener is known as one of the most staunch opponents of property tax increases on the council, and he said he took many calls from local residents because of his reputation with council members.
“Especially in a community full of young families, any increase in costs is passed on. Whether as a homeowner or renter,” Cavener said. “And as serious as we are about housing affordability, I’m also focused on home ownership affordability.”
He plans to work to ensure the 3% increase doesn’t go through, even though the growth has helped keep the city’s overall tax rate low and it’s just part of several tax districts included in the tally of a homeowner.
“There were years when we took the full 3% and people’s property taxes went down from a city perspective. There have also been times when we’ve stayed flat and other taxes have gone up,” Cavener said.
Other major cities will also finalize budgets in the coming weeks.
Cavener hopes Meridian residents will pay attention to the budgeting process and provide feedback, suggestions, and critiques.
“This is the aspect of government that touches our citizens the most, and we never hear about it from our community,” Cavener said. “We hear when they’re upset when tax bills come out, and we hear how frustrated they are when their property tax bill comes out. We don’t hear from them when we develop our budget.”