Saturday, April 18, 2015

How Much Do Boise Parks Add to Value of Your Home?

Posted By on Sat, Apr 18, 2015 at 9:39 AM

A park, particularly a green space in the heart of a metropolis, adds tremendous value to a city. But is it possible to put a dollar value on that worth?

In an effort to measure that value, Dr. Jaap Vos and Dr. Thomas Wuerzer, two professors in Boise State University's Department of Community and Regional Planning, have completed a research project addresssing the question "What is the added economic value that Boise's Parks and Recreation system provides to the City of Boise?" They will reveal their findings to the Boise City Council on Tuesday, April 21.

The national nonprofit Trust for Public Land uses a standard of 500 feet. In other words, they measure a park's economic impact to homes within 500 feet. There are 11,749 properties within 500 feet of Boise parks. Those homes represent more than $2.7 billion in assessed residential property value. Add in the Boise Greenbelt and Foothills, and there are 16,101 properties within the 500 feet, representing $4.2 billion in assessed residential property value.

But Vos tells Boise Weekly that they were more interested in measuring Boise's entire park system (including the Greenbelt and Foothills) and their economic impact to all residences. That comes close to an impact of approximately $580 million.

There are many variables, however, beginning with the fact that not all parks have the same impact and some homes have greater access to multiple parks. 

The following are among the study's conclusions:

-Access is more important than distance.
-Different parks have different economic impacts (for example Ann Morrison and Julia Davis parks have a much greater impact to all city residences while neighborhood parks have a more parochial impact).
-The park system has a significant impact on property tax revenue in all of Ada County.
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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Long Night at Idaho Statehouse Ends with Passage of Transportation Funding Bill, 2015 Legislative Session

Posted By on Sat, Apr 11, 2015 at 10:17 AM

It was past 1 a.m. on April 11, but Idaho lawmakers successfully passed a transportation funding bill, HB 312aa, in a 51-19 vote in the House.

The bill was hammered out by a conference committee including members of the House and Senate, who wrangled increasing vehicle registration fees and fees for hybrid and electric vehicles, as well as an increase in the state's gasoline tax. The bill will raise almost $95 million for transportation, including $63.2 million from a 7-cent increase in the Gem State's 25-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax and $26.8 million from increased registration fees. 

The bill's passage was last-minute: The Senate voted 26-9 in favor of the measure at just before midnight, and the House took it up shortly after midnight, with both chambers adjourning sine die at after 1:30 a.m., ending the 2015 legislative session.

Several lawmakers expressed dissatisfaction with the bill. According to Boise Democratic Rep. John Gannon, the bill should have raised fees on extra-heavy trucks, while Rexburg Republican Rep. Dell Raybould countered that heavy truck drivers pay more in gas taxes. In a Spokesman-Review report, others said that the bill simply didn't adequately address transportation issues in Idaho.

"This is about a third of the urgent need that's been identified to us," Boise Democratic Rep. Ilana Rubel.

Idaho Transportation Director Brian Ness told lawmakers in February that the state needs $262 million "just to preserve the system in the condition it's in." Ultimately, Ness said, "transportation in Idaho is underfunded by $543 million annually."
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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

UPDATE: Idaho Senate Stalls Sweeping Tax Reform From House Majority Leader

Posted By on Wed, Apr 1, 2015 at 9:55 AM

UPDATE: March 31, 2015

Idaho House Majority Rep. Mike Moyle's elaborate tax proposal, which would have seen a 7-cent bump in gasoline tax, the elimination of the grocery tax credit, and lower taxes for Idaho's wealthiest citizens, was DOA when it hit the Idaho Senate.

Following a caucus meeting, Senate Republican leadership sent the bill back to committee where it is expected to permanently stall.

"The majority of the Senate isn't inclined to support the legislation," said Senate Majority Leader Sen. Bart Davis.

UPDATE: March 30, 2015

The full Idaho House has voted to approve a fast-tracked House Bill 311, House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Moyle's elaborate plan to eliminate Idaho's grocery tax credit, remove sales tax from groceries, raise fuel taxes by 7-cents per gallon and lower the top tier income tax rates for Idaho's wealthiest citizens (the top tax bracket would drop from 7.4 percent to 6.7 percent).

The 53-17 vote included 53 of the Republican majority's 56 votes, with only three GOP legislators - Reps. Neil Anderson, Gayle Batt and Wendy Horman - joining all 14 Democrats to vote against the measure.

Calling the bill "irresponsible," Pocatello Democratic Rep. Elaine Smith said, "Many of our senior citizens are in the middle class, on fixed incomes. And I'm in that group." Smith concluded by saying Moyle's bill was raising taxes on middle class and working families.

But Moyle argued that the tax bill would help "make us more competitive with surrounding states."

The Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy challenged Moyle's fiscal note attached to the bill which says that there would be a gain in General Fund Revenue in Fiscal year 2016. But ICFP says says that there would be a $50 million loss to General Fund Revenue. UPDATE: March 27, 2015

Following a full morning of testimony, including objections from the Interfaith Roundtable Against Hunger, Catholic Charities of Idaho and the Idaho Public Employees Association, the Idaho House Revenue and Tax Committee approved -along party lines - House Bill 311 which would raises taxes on gas by 7-cents per gallon, remove the tax exemption for groceries, lower the top tiers of income taxes and eventually remove sales tax from grocery items.

"When all the provisions in HB 311 are balanced out, the net change is a tax increase for 80-percent of Idaho taxpayers," said Darcy James, Vice Chair of the Interfaith Roundtable Against Hunger. "The grocery tax credit is removed retroactively to the beginning of 2015, while the sales tax on food continues until October 1st. This amounts to double taxation on most Idahoans."

James also pushed back at the tax break for Idaho's wealthiest citizens.

"HB 311 upends the long-standing principle of a graduated income tax," she argued. "Under the proposed flat tax, Idaho's highest tax brackets would enjoy an income tax reduction at the expense of lower brackets."

James later Boise Weekly that she was surprised to be accused of "demagoguing" by Idaho House Speaker Mike Moyle, sponsor of HB 31. "I thought that was a bit unusual coming from him, but the committee was courteous and I appreciate that." 

James told BW that she wasn't surprised by the party-line vote, "But our view is that we have to bring these issues to the public, and let lawmakers know that there is another view."

Meanwhile the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy revealed its analysis of the tax package, challenging Moyle's fiscal note attached to the bill which says that there would be a gain in General Fund Revenue in Fiscal year 2016. But ICFP says says that there would be a $50 million loss to General Fund Revenue.

And IFCP argued that the current grocery tax credit ($100 for individuals and $120 for seniors) is, in fact, a bigger benefit to lower wage earners than an overall sales tax exemption on food. The isolate impact of both of the changes would mean a small increase (about $15 to $30) in taxes paid by the lowest 40 percent of wage earners, according to IFCP. The change would also decrease overall General Fund revenue.

House Speaker Scott Bedke, a co-sponsor of the measure, says he expects HB 311 to come up for debate and vote before the full House by Tuesday, March 31.

ORIGINAL POST: March 25, 2015

No, hell did not freeze over. No, the sun didn't rise in the West this morning. But House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Moyle, the reddest of the red state legislators, proposed a tax increase Wednesday morning.

"With all due respect," Pocatello Democratic Rep. Mark Nye told Moyle. "This is a tax increase proposal by the majority party."

But Moyle, speaking this morning before the House Revenue and Tax Committee stood his ground.

"Yes, it is in fiscal year in 2016," said Moyle. "But in 2017, it changes and it's a tax cut."

Moyle's elaborate proposal, which comes in the final days of the 2015 Idaho Legislature, would increase fuel taxes by 7 cents beginning Oct. 1 of this year and then remove sales tax from groceries and repeal the food tax credit—$100 for most individuals and $120 for seniors. The sales tax on groceries would also be eliminated on Oct. 1 and the removal of the grocery tax credit would be effective Jan. 1, 2016.

While some fellow Republicans questioned Moyle's figures, the majority leader said, "You pick your economist, I'll pick mine."

"If you remember at the beginning of the session, House Speaker (Scott) Bedke told us that we were here to take care of education and to markedly make Idaho a better place to do business," said Moyle. "This bill does it all, except for the education part."

The committee agreed to set a full hearing on the measure, which should attract more than a few supporters and detractors.

"There's something for everyone to love and something for everyone to hate," said Moyle.

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Early Voting Today for Meridian, Melba School Districts

Posted By on Sat, Feb 28, 2015 at 9:00 AM

While the 2015 Idaho Legislature debates how much or how little to fund K-12 public education for the next school year, many school districts continue to face the challenge of doing more with less in the current fiscal year. That's why so many of those districts, including Idaho's largest, are again turning to voters for approval of supplemental levies. On Tuesday, March 10, school districts in every corner of Idaho will hold special votes on proposed levies or bonds.

Today in Ada County, though, voters in the West Ada (Meridian) and Melba school districts will have a rare Saturday opportunity to cast an early ballot at the Ada County Elections Office at 400 N. Benjamin Lane, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Early voting will continue next week as well, with early voting taking place at the elections office Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. each day. To date, 291 people have voted early in the West Ada and Melba bond elections. Ada County has also mailed out 846 absentee ballots, of which 301 have been returned.

In the West Ada School District, officials are asking voters to approve a $96 million bond (a two-thirds majority is required) to fund two middle schools, the remodel of an elementary school and the expansion of Meridian High School. 

Melba voters are being asked to approve a $9.5 million bond to fund a new elementary school to help ease overcrowding at the current school. Officials estimate that the current elementary school has 100 more K-6 students than the 300-student capacity. Again, a super majority is required for approval of the bond.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Poll: McCall Evenly Split on Sales Tax Hike Proposal

Posted By on Fri, Jan 23, 2015 at 10:15 AM

An online poll in McCall indicates that residents are almost evenly split on a proposal to raise the city's sales tax by 1 percent.

This week's edition of the McCall Star-News reports that the poll, conducted in December, came in the wake of a November ballot initiative to raise the sales tax that failed by only seven votes. But the poll came closer to a 50-50 split, reports the Star-News.

The poll also allowed citizens to comment anonymously, and a good many in favor of increasing the sales tax pointed to McCall's deteriorating infrastructure, which, they said, needs immediate attention. 

Others, meanwhile, questioned the fairness of the proposed tax hike.

“I will gladly support the initiative when groceries are made exempt from the tax,” wrote one commenter.

McCall Mayor Jackie Aymon said she is in favor of putting the measure back in front of voters this November.
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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Idaho Revenues: Below Budget For October But In Line For Fiscal Year

Posted By on Sat, Nov 8, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Idaho's latest financial report card indicates that the Gem State was behind in revenues for October, but is just about in line with fiscal year-to-date projections.

The Idaho Division of Financial Management reports that each of the state's largest tax categories came in below expectations in October—corporate income tax was $1 million below budget, individual income tax was $1.5 million below budget' and sales tax was $3.5 million below budget. The good news is that product tax collections were $200,000 above budget.

To date (fiscal year 2015 began in July), individual income tax collections of $433,177,900 are 6.5 percent above budget, corporate income tax collections of $58,474,100 are seven-tenths of a percent above budget, sales tax collections of $424,411,900 are 6.5 percent above budget, product tax collections of $19,322,300 are 1.9 percent above budget, but miscellaneous revenue of $29,392,800 is 12.1 percent below budget. 
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Thursday, November 6, 2014

McCall Sales Tax Initiative Fails By a Whisker

Posted By on Thu, Nov 6, 2014 at 9:47 AM

A majority of voters in McCall agreed that the city ought to bump up its sales tax rate, but not enough turned out at the polls Tuesday to secure a needed super majority to pass the measure.

Voters were asked whether they would be comfortable with a 1 percent bump in the city's sales tax, from 6 percent to 7 percent. A 60 percent majority was necessary to pass the increase but only 59.3 percent voted in favor of the measure. Ultimately, 480 voted yes and 398 voted no.

The McCall Star-News reports that proponents of the higher tax said it would help the city "catch up" on a blacklog of repairs to city streets and sewers. They said the increased tax would have generated at least $1 million per year to help fix the city's infrastructure.

Proponents also argued that the the majority of the tax burden would have fallen on visitors to the resort community.
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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Press-Tribune: Caldwell Officials Accuse Pioneer Irrigation of 'Illegal Assessments'

Posted By on Sat, Nov 23, 2013 at 11:00 AM

The Pioneer Irrigation District, which pumps water to more than 34,000 acres throughout Canyon and western Ada counties, is denying new claims in a lawsuit that alleges it has "repeatedly and unfairly" charged small-parcel land owners.

This morning's Idaho Press-Tribune reports that the claim, filed by a Caldwell City councilman, alleges that Pioneer's charges to customers who own less than one acre subsidized large-parel landowners' rates.

In a Nov. 13 letter to its customers, Pioneer admitted to incorrectly assessing some of its 2013 rates, but the Press-Tribune reports that city of Caldwell officials believe the Pioneer district has "incorrectly charged citizens for years."

In September, Pioneer announced that it was raising its 2013 irrigation assessment by 7.6 percent and that payments were due by Friday, Dec. 20, from its 5,800 customers.

But Caldwell officials, according to the Press-Tribune, say improper assessments have "been going on for years and could result in millions of dollars of past illegal assessments against Caldwell citizens and others."

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Study: Idaho's Tax Burden 49th in Nation

Posted By on Thu, Oct 24, 2013 at 10:28 AM

When this year's edition of State and Local Tax Burden Analysis was published Oct. 23 by tax guru Alan Dornfest, the Idaho State Tax Commission was quick to point out that the Gem State had the 49th lowest overall per capita tax burden in the nation. The study also says that Idaho has the lowest tax burden among eleven western states, based on each state's tax revenue, income and population data from fiscal year 2011.

The study indicated that:

-Idaho's per capita tax burden was $2,975 in FY 2011, compared to a $4,296 national average
-Idaho's sales tax burden decreased slightly in FY 2011 and is now 3.2 percent below the U.S. average.
-Idaho's motor vehicle tax burden (including fuel taxes, licenses and registration fees) decreased slightly in FY 2011, but was still 45.2 percent over the national average. Dornfest said state comparisons were difficult to gauge since some states levy a personal property tax on motor vehicles which moves that revenue to the property tax category. Idaho charges motor vehicle registration fees instead of personal property tax on vehicles.

Dornfests study is available here on the Tax Commission's website.

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Forbes: Idaho Couple Beat Tax Commission on Domicile But Lost on Community Property

Posted By on Tue, Apr 2, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Forbes Magazine's Peter Reilly, who covers tax issues for the business journal, reports this morning of a twisted tale involving domicile, community property and the Idaho Tax Commission. The commission redacted the names of an Idaho couple so Reilly refers to them as "George and Martha."

The story began with Washington state residents George and Martha buying a house in Idaho, prior to a move. But George's employer, not willing to let him go, gave him a big promotion and raise. George decided to stay in Washington while Martha and their children moved into their new Idaho home.

George didn't want to pay Idaho's top income tax rate of 7 percent, versus Washington's 0 percent, claiming that he was still domiciled in Washington. The Idaho Tax Commission ultimately agreed.

But both Idaho and Washington are community property states and treat earnings as community income. Simply put, they took more from Martha.

Reilly suggests that George and Martha would have been better off if they owned two homes in Idaho and Wyoming (Wyoming doesn't have an individual income tax nor a community property rule).

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