In this season of campaigns and initiatives and increasing housing prices, property taxes make a convenient target. Nobody likes them - well, nobody likes taxes generally, but especially not property taxes - and of a sudden everyone seems to have their pet approach for solving the property tax problem.
Which is a problem. But in trying to throw money at it - with the idea of swapping out sales tax money for property tax money - the various advocates may have a case of bad aim.
The impetus isn't hard to understand. It grows out of all those stories, dripping out one by one, about people whose houses, new or used, have gained a whole lot of value in the last few years, and who are seeing their property taxes shooting through the roof. Butch Otter, the Republican nominee for governor, is among them, having just lost an appeal of the increase that will cost him tens of thousands of dollars. Prop tax fury is rampaging, especially in the Panhandle and parts of southwest Idaho.
So what if I were to tell you that, over the past seven years, the total amount of money collected from property taxes has risen by about a third - averaged out, about 5% growth a year, or less - no spectacular growth at all? And that it would be considerably less if you took out all the new growth, especially around the Boise and Coeur d'Alene regions, that have added so heavily to the increase? (more…)