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Strapped Idaho county issues bonds to pay debt

Boise County residents will begin paying more taxes in December in a surcharge that will last seven years as the rural government makes good on a big bill from a nasty legal fight.

The county has issued $2.7 million in bonds through the Idaho Bond Bank Authority that will pay the balance of a $5.4 million judgment from a lawsuit brought by a company that was illegally barred from building a teen treatment center, The Idaho Statesman reported Oct. 4.

A property with taxable value of $100,000 will see taxes rise $31 a year to cover the money owed to Boise development company Oaas Laney.

Though the debt is limited to Boise County, the matter became the subject of a dispute in the 2012 Idaho Legislature before lawmakers finally backed a plan that led to the bond sale.

Boise County Commissioner Bob Fry said after the bond sale that he was relieved the matter has finally been brought to a successful conclusion.

“It’s like how runners feel at the end of a marathon – they’re just wasted,” Fry said. “That’s how I feel about this process. It’s been really hard.”

In 2010, a jury ruled that officials in the sparsely populated county north of Boise broke federal laws by blocking the teen treatment center proposed by Oaas Laney. Fry wasn’t yet elected, so he wasn’t one of the officials.

That kicked off a frantic effort to figure out how to pay the $5.4 million judgment, an amount that threatened to put a county of just 7,000 residents and limited resources into dire financial straits.

During the 2012 Legislature, an initial bill allowed the county to bond for the money without a two-thirds vote that would normally be required.

That enraged some county residents, who said it left them without a voice in remedying a mess caused by local officials.

After that first measure died in the House, a follow-up measure that required a vote cleared both the House and the Senate.

The bond issue passed the muster of Boise County voters on May 15.

Though property owners’ payments will go up for the next seven years, there’s some small consolation: The county will pay just 1.02 percent interest on the bonds – less than the 5.5 percent interest awarded as part of the judgment.

As a result, taxpayers will be forced to cover about $209,519 less in interest than once predicted.

About The Associated Press