The City of Boise expects the 2021 Legislative Session to address many pressing challenges facing Idaho residents. Our goal is to advocate for our community needs and offer proactive solutions to ensure Boise is truly a city for everyone.
In preparation for the upcoming session, our Government Affairs staff has identified the following items of interest, based on input received from Boiseans throughout the year, across each of the City’s strategic priority areas.
A Safe and Healthy City for Everyone | Public Health Safety
As the COVID-19 global pandemic continues, the City is committed to taking action to ensure our community remains healthy and safe. This includes preserving our local authority and partnership with our health district to enact medically needed, scientifically backed safety precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19. This also includes working with statewide elected officials and local community organizations to ensure vulnerable populations within Boise have access to basic needs such as healthcare, food and shelter to withstand the ongoing impacts of the pandemic.
A Home for Everyone | Property Tax Relief
The City of Boise values its ability to set a budget that reflects people-centered priorities. Property taxes are a significant portion of our budget that allow us to provide essential city services like fully staffed police and fire departments, clean water, Parks & Recreation services and more. We also recognize that rising property taxes remain a prominent concern for residents, and as such, look forward to working with lawmakers to move forward responsible solutions that provide necessary relief while still funding critical infrastructure and services as our city continues to grow. Our top priorities include:
- Homeowner’s Exemption: Idaho tax code allows homeowners to exempt up to $100,000 of their property value from property taxes so long as the home is their primary residence. The City of Boise supports legislation that would remove this $100,000 cap and reinstate indexing the exemption that was repealed in 2016 to allow the available amount eligible for an exemption to rise with increasing home values.
- Impact Fees for Schools: The City of Boise supports legislation that allows schools to levy impact fees as a measure of relieving pressure on property tax. State statute allows cities, counties and highway districts to charge impact fees to residential and commercial developments to fund one-time capital investments for public facilities such as roads, parks, police and fire stations. Public schools, however, cannot utilize impact fees to build or expand school facilities even if new residential development could potentially strain local schools. Consequently, school districts rely on property tax bonds to raise funds when they experience growth beyond what their state funding was based on.
- Enhancing the Circuit Breaker Program: The City of Boise supports changes to the State’s property tax reduction program, also known as the Circuit Breaker Program. The current program allows low-income residents, Idahoans with certain disabilities or veterans to apply for a reduction on their property taxes if they can demonstrate financial need. However, as the income-gap widens, more residents would benefit from the program if the financial threshold for qualifying for the program was increased, and the amount of tax relief eligible participants could receive also increased.
In preparation for the 2021 Legislative Session, lawmakers formed an interim committee regarding property taxes and voted to recommend three bills to be reviewed by the standing local government and taxation committees starting this January. These bills center on enhanced budget transparency for local governments, limitations on cash reserves that can be held by local governments and a reformulation of the property tax revenue formula. You can find more information on what your property taxes go toward, the interim committee's work, as well as the City of Boise’s public testimony provided to the committee upon their vote on the above bills.
Engaging Everyone |City Council Districts
The House Bill (HB) 413, passed during the 2020 Legislative Session, requires Idaho cities with a population over 100,000 to establish districts for the purpose of electing city council members. During the legislative interim, the City of Boise worked with Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder (R – Boise) to discuss updates to the bill to address concerns regarding the timeframe for the creation of districts and the unclear process for drawing and deciding the districts. In 2021, the City of Boise plans to bring amendments to the bill that will address the implementation timeframe so that it is consistent with Idaho’s reapportionment timeline, avoiding unnecessary taxpayer expense to comply with the legislation. It will also explicitly permit a city to work with their county clerk while drawing precincts, boundaries, and any other districting issues, as well as permit sitting council members to serve the remainder of their term in order to preserve the staggered election terms established by Idaho Code.