Boise County asks voters to approve tax hike to help cover $5.4M judgment in lost legal case
Published: May 7,2012
Tags: Boise County
Boise County commissioners are hoping to raise taxes to help the county finally dig its way out of a multimillion dollar legal debt, but the first step is getting permission from voters.
Voters will get a chance May 15 to determine whether the county can issue bonds to cover the $3.1 million left from a legal judgment stemming from a 2010 federal court verdict finding county commissioners illegally blocked a teen treatment center.
The judge ruled that county commissioners violated The Fair Housing Act when they denied plans by Alamar Ranch to build the facility near Idaho City.
The sparsely populated county has struggled to find ways to pay off the debt ever since.
But county commissioners say approving the bond election would save the county hundreds of thousands in interest, preserve crucial taxpayer services and put the issue to rest.
“If the vote is how I predict — and we get the bond — it’s going to save the county a whole lot of heartache,” Terry Day, a Boise County commissioner, told KTVB-TV.
Idaho lawmakers passed a bill the final day of the 2012 Legislature giving the county permission to exceed state limits in pursuing low-interest bonds.
The law requires majority approval from voters, but a tax hike may be a hard sell to some.
Kathy Staneart, who owns and operates Harleys’ Pub in Idaho City, said she doesn’t want a tax increase but considers it the county’s only option.
“I don’t like it, and I am sure many of the citizens here don’t,” Staneart said. “I have talked with many, many of them; but we have got to do it.”
The proposed tax increase would last for seven years and then revert back to 2012 levels after the debt is paid off.
Boise County was originally ordered to pay $5.4 million, but paid a portion of it with county funds, leaving a $3.15 million balance. With interest on that penalty accruing at 5.5 percent, the county shells out about $400 in interest each day.
Day says the plan will allow the county to pay up more quickly, minimizing the fiscal damage from the lawsuit and ending the financial uncertainty that the unresolved debt has for years inflicted.
“It’s just going to be an all-around good thing for the county,” Day said.
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