Hayden is a heaven, but bill is due

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One of North Idaho’s most desirable communities with a forward-looking City Council led by a mayor who once headed the region’s economic development efforts is bound to grow. And grow Hayden has, in mostly the right ways, as was exclaimed and enumerated last Thursday by Mayor Steve Griffitts.

You want job growth? Hayden’s got it. The number of new jobs in Hayden more than doubled in 2017 from its 2016 total.

You want business growth? Hayden’s got it. The community has recently added 25 new or relocated businesses and 17 expansions of existing businesses.

You want new construction growth? Hayden’s got it. The total valuation of new construction skyrocketed from $48.9 million in 2016 to $67.2 million last year.

And do you want a tax base that supports the quality of life a vibrant, attractive community like Hayden requires? That’s a much tougher question to answer.

Hayden residents, prepare to be asked.

During his State of the City address last week, Mayor Griffitts shared one screen slide more astonishing than the rest. It’s the comparative property tax levy rate for Hayden, Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Rathdrum. Keep in mind that these property taxes pay for essentials like public safety, streets and sewer infrastructure.

Coeur d’Alene’s 2016 rate per $1,000 assessed valuation was $5.90. In Rathdrum, that number was $5.77. Post Falls was $5.59 per $1,000 value. Hayden? A buck twenty-eight.

The city property tax paid on an average home in those four communities looked like this: Cd’A, $752; Rathdrum, $735; Post Falls, $712; and Hayden, $163.

Unlike the other cities, Hayden doesn’t have its own police department. It pays the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office for that service, but can afford only four officers. At best that’s half what a city Hayden’s size should have.

While enlisting the help of more law enforcers is an easy sell to most citizens, investing in serious sewer systems isn’t. Yet Hayden needs to spend an estimated $13 million on Phase II of its wastewater treatment plant, with nearly $10 million of that simply to meet regulatory requirements.

The Hayden City Council hasn’t decided yet, but residents should be prepared to consider a request to raise the levy rate, possibly in the neighborhood of $3 per $1,000, later this year. If there is such a thing as a long overdue tax increase, this might be it.

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