City of Boise Legislative Updates

May 6, 2021

This week, the City of Boise is tracking two bills – House Bill 389 and House Bill 319.

House Bill 389 (HB 389), introduced on Monday, is focused on making changes to Idaho Code around property taxes. The bill claims that it provides residents with property tax relief by increasing the homeowner’s exemption by 25%; however, it also includes a 150% increased tax break for businesses, which results in a nearly 6x increase to residents.

The reality is that the property tax problem is one of valuation, not municipal budget growth. This year, the City of Boise took a 0% budget increase, which allowed Boise to participate in Governor Little’s property tax relief program. Together, this resulted in the City’s overall levy decreasing by 16% - yet the median home in Boise still saw a 2.2% increase in property taxes.

Furthermore, while the fix to the new construction formula is a welcome correction to the tax code, the 90% cap on new construction is an arbitrarily placed limit and will result in growth not paying for itself. These are not the meaningful tax cuts that residents have been promised, but they could result in cuts to services that residents deserve.

We are also tracking House Bill 319 (HB 319), which is essentially a restructure of Senate Bill 1111. This piece of legislation is aimed at moving elections of city officers, mayors and municipal bonds and levies to even-numbered years on the November general ballot.

The City of Boise opposed Senate Bill 1111 and opposed HB 319. While the City of Boise remains committed to responsibly implementing council districts as instructed by the passage of HB 413 in 2020 (which was the premise of SB 1111 – to guide cities to adopt the creation of council districts), we also recognize that the passage of HB 319 and its newly added amendments would mean a significant shift in municipal election policy, which is strongly opposed by cities across the state – both large and small, urban and rural – in addition to the Association of Idaho Cities.

Shifting city races to even numbered years may result in higher turnout numbers but won’t guarantee increased voter engagement in municipal races. Voters instead will have to sift through long ballots – filled with presidential, congressional and statewide elections – before getting to municipal ballot questions. Also, aligning city races with other nonpartisan races will interfere with the nonpartisan status of municipal races. These races have remained nonpartisan for decades because voters recognize that issues affecting public safety, roads, city services, and clean drinking water are issues that rise above partisanship to serve the betterment of their communities.

Follow the progress of both bills here:

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