By Lindsay Atkinson | SMART Boise project leader
There is an undeniable problem in Boise: Residents are having trouble staying in their homes. There are many factors contributing to this problem, but one that elected officials avoid: Rising property taxes.
Property taxes have grown rapidly in Boise and, as of right now, the city has committed to raise them even higher. Officials have stated they will take the maximum tax increase allowed by law for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, SMART Boise (Save Money and Respect Taxpayers) recently published a report that details $144 million in wasteful spending by the Boise city government.
RELATED: SMART Boise report details $144 million in taxpayer dollars wasted on developer handouts, an opulent library design, and more. Click here to see this revealing report.
These two circumstances should never coexist: Government should not be growing their funds while spending them wastefully.
Boise residents, as well as candidates for mayor and city council, who want to help make the city more affordable should review SMART Boise’s report. The report details five patterns behind wasteful spending that city officials can tackle immediately to provide tax relief to residents.
First, city government officials love spending money to support their goal of making Boise the most livable city in the country. But more spending means higher taxes. For many Boiseans, it is extremely hard to pay these rising taxes. To make Boise livable—that is, affordable—City Hall should change its tax policy, holding steady or even lowering its tax collection.
Second, the city should stop picking economic winners and losers. For instance, the city gave a $5,000 grant to Ballet Idaho. To get the money for this grant, the city collected taxes from all sorts of businesses, including other dance studios, but the tax dollars went to one organization. The city should not determine which for-profit or nonprofit organizations are worthy of operating in the city, and should not force entities to fund their competition via taxation.
Third, the city often hires contractors to do work that city employees could do. For instance, the city paid a public relations firm $80,000 to implement the Boise Kind project even though the Boise government has staff with similar job descriptions. The city has a huge staff with a variety of expertise, but city officials don’t use that staff to implement their special pet projects.
Fourth, the city needs to cut its taxpayer losses faster. The Downtown Housing Incentive Program is a case in point. This program lasted three years before it was shut down. It dished out tax dollars to developers that created housing in the downtown. This included a set of condos that, once built, though taxpayer-subsidized, cost some $600,000 each—hardly the affordable housing the city needs right now.
Lastly, the city spends a lot of taxpayer money through loophole systems, like partnering with other taxing districts to fund projects that city officials do not have the money to complete alone. Thus they get money from the same taxpayers, for the same project, without having to ask for voter approval.
Tackling these patterns of wasteful spending is a great start to addressing Boise’s property tax problem.
Lindsay Atkinson is the Local Government Policy Analyst for SMART Boise. She is a graduate of Northwest Nazarene University, with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and minors in Political Science and Spanish. Lindsay is a former America’s Future Foundation Writing Fellow. Her research has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Examiner.