Taxing times; It’s all about spending

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Kootenai County’s fiscal 2018 budget is $88 million.

All that money will pay county employee salaries and a host of other costs, but where do those dollars come from?

Well, if you own property in Kootenai County, you’re chipping in, with the deadline one week from today. Maybe you’re chipping in more than you’d like to.

But how do “they” determine how much you pay, and where does that fit into the overall county budget puzzle? The Press asked former Kootenai County Commissioner Dan Green that question after he noted that many people misunderstand property tax calculations. Here’s Mr. Green’s explanation:

“The assessed value of the property determines a person’s share of the overall tax burden when compared to other properties. If all assessed values in the county appreciated 10 percent in a given year and spending by each taxing district did not change, the person’s tax bill would not change. Spending is what drives the amount that needs to be collected from the citizens. The assessed value determines the share that each of us pays.

“In contrast, if assessed values all drop by 10 percent in any year but spending does not drop, your tax bill again will not change.

“One more example to address: If my property has a 20 percent increase in my assessed valuation in a given year but another property only has a 10 percent assessment increase, and spending remains constant, my tax bill will go up and the other property’s bill will go down because I am picking up a larger percentage of the overall spending requirement.

“Ultimately, spending drives the taxes that need to be collected. I can not speak for other taxing districts but the county spends months preparing, discussing, analyzing and adopting a budget to present to the citizens at a final hearing in early fall. The hard work is done during the summer months, all in open meetings that are noticed to the public, that almost never have a member of the public present.”

While many citizens continue to mutter over their most recent tax bills, another point of clarification is needed. In the argument particularly about seniors who have no kids or grandkids in the local school districts, a number of people are suggesting renters get off the taxpaying hook no matter how many kids they have enrolled in public school.

That’s not the way it works, generally. When property taxes go up, most landlords simply pass along those increases to their renters. So renters don’t receive the property tax bills. They just pay them.

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