OpenCDA

December 6, 2012

Taxes, Truth and an Expensive Future

Filed under: The City's Pulse — mary @ 4:55 pm

Mary Souza’s Newsletter

Mic Armon lost his recent election and had to give up his seat on the NIC Board of Trustees.  At last week’s board meeting, he was thanked profusely by others for his years of service to the school.  Mic then went on to compliment himself and the board for a detailed list of accomplishments.  I watched the rerun on Channel 19. 

What struck me was how he touted the grand results of their efforts but, of course, didn’t acknowledge the improper methods they used to get to their desired ends.  He didn’t mention the flawed, inflated and outdated appraisal on the land, or the back-door maneuvers to keep the voters out of the decisions.

After his assurance that all is well at the college, Mic turned to a less gracious and far less professional topic:  He let his anger loose about his opponent’s claim that NIC has raised people’s taxes. Mic insisted that taxes have not gone up because of NIC.

To “prove” his point, Mic waved around a handful of papers, stating that they were four years of his own property tax reports. Lo and behold, Chairman of the Board, Mic Armon’s NIC taxes went DOWN by $1 and three cents over those years. He claimed to have also checked 8 other properties which all went down or stayed the same.  (Were those some of fellow Trustee Judy Meyer’s many properties?—he didn’t say.)

Let me repeat: The outgoing Chairman of the NIC Board, based on his “research” of  9 properties in Kootenai County, claimed that NIC has not caused taxes to go up.

So I checked our tax statements.  Guess what, Mic?—Your opponent, Todd  Banducci, was right and you were wrong.

From 2007 – 2012, the portion of our property taxes going to NIC increased by more than 83%.  For comparison, during the same time frame, our taxes for the City of CdA increased 30% and our taxes for the County went up 35%.   (And the value of our property went down 23%…more about that later.)

But Mic says that NIC has not caused taxes to go up. How can he say such a thing with a straight face?  He knows that NIC took an additional $2.6 million in Foregone taxes back in 2008, which was on top of their 3% maximum yearly budget increase.  He was on the board at the time.  I went to that May 28, 2008 board meeting and stood up to give my comments.  You can read my statement to the board back then by clicking here.  I’m surprised, as I read my words to them again, how important the Mill site land acquisition decision was, and how poorly it was handled by the NIC Board.

So I’m pleased that we have two new voices now on the board, with Todd Banducci and Ron Nilson, but we are not safe yet.  After Mic felt he had exonerated NIC on taxes, he rattled off a rip-roaring list of spending projects he foresees at NIC, starting with the renovation of their current buildings to “bring them into the 21st century”.  But that’s not enough.  He envisions a new recreation center, a new sports complex and a shared academic facility for the four year colleges and universities because, as Mic told us, if the state won’t step up to build it, NIC will have to take on that responsibility.  (Local taxes do not fund Idaho’s four year colleges, except the part we all pay in state taxes.) Does he think there’s no end to our money?

Well hold onto your wallets, taxpayers, because the City of Coeur d’Alene has a long shopping list too, and we’re going to pay the bill.  You’ve been hearing about one problem or another for quite awhile now, but I just sat down and wrote out a list.  You should be sitting down too, when you get a load of this:

Probable Upcoming Obligations of the City of CdA:

–Wastewater Plant upgrade: $31 million
–Dike Road repair: $1.5 – 3 million
–Stormwater System: $1 million
–Dixon Police lawsuit ~$4 million
–Person Field acquisition: $650,000
–Front Street renovation project: $2.9 million
–Water System upgrades: 30% fee increase over 6 years
–CdA Lake Drive acquisition & liability: (yes, it’s still alive) Cost = ?

What bothers me greatly is that NIC and our city government do not respond to the conditions on the ground, to use a military term.  The local economy is hurting; businesses are closing their doors permanently or at least laying off employees, yet our government taxing entities keep spending like they live in an alternate universe where money flows like water.

Many of you have emailed me to express your frustration with your taxes. I will end this newsletter with just a sampling of the tax comments I’ve received over the past few years.  You will see that all kinds of folks are negatively impacted by the decisions of our local officials.  And we wonder why there are no jobs?

Below you’ll find the comments of 8 different people in our community, from business owners to retired seniors on fixed incomes.
Have a good weekend. –Mary
*****

“Here we are in a county with 9% unemployment, people upside down in their homes, business’ closing left and right, food banks pleading for food, warming shelters begging for blankets and, I don’t know about you but, my property taxes increased 25.4%  Amazing, I wonder if Boise, CDA City Hall, Kootenai County, the school district, North Idaho College and other taxing entities have any idea what is really going on in our community. I shall be eternally amazed at the lack of concern these taxing districts seem to have for we property owners.”

“MY COMMERCIAL BUILDING VALUE WENT DOWN 40K FROM LAST YEAR AND MY TAXES WENT UP 11%.  THIS IS CRAZY.”

“WOW, unbelievable to me that people don’t do something about this all… kinda like the frog in the water where they slowly turn it up until it boils.  The frog never jumps out because it happens so slowly….”

“Our taxes are creeping up, & we do NOT want to go up on our rents, as we rent to very nice, hard working young local CDA people, who are struggling so hard.  These government termites are everywhere.”

Here are the taxes for my business in Coeur d’Alene. Up 105% in 4 yrs.
2006-  $7089
2010-  $14532 (72% of my 2010 taxes go to LCDC)

“I am retired and I just got my property tax bill. My taxes went up $100 even though the assessment on my home went down from $54,000 to $44,000 this year.”

“During the last 5 years sales are off approximately 40% while taxes have doubled. It is a wonder anyone can remain viable in this economy while government seems to not be affected. Salaries in City Hall are higher than I earned as a commercial airline pilot.”

“I think there should be something said about the property taxes in the city. For me it’s about the spending, if it was their own money I don’t think they would be so willing. I think it’s tough for a lot of business property owners who have had to tighten their belts for the last 4 years to stay in business, the city just keeps on spending. My taxes were $4743 in 2007 but went up to $7619 in 2011. That’s a 60% increase while my assessed value went down significantly.”

13 Comments

  1. what the heck? even small town CDA acts like the big government. Thank you for the update on why I am struggling to survive in our small beautiful town that really provides little on ways to make money. The majority of people here are the workers that get paid min wage so all our tourists can come and enjoy our fun and beauty. The rest are retired. Drop the taxes and stop the spending!

    Comment by sam — December 6, 2012 @ 5:28 pm

  2. “Like”

    Comment by Dan — December 6, 2012 @ 6:05 pm

  3. Thanks, Dan, and welcome Sam! Yes, I agree, we need to limit taxation and FEES, (which the taxing entities use as a way to boost their revenues over the maximum taxes they can collect). Waste water fees will go up dramatically and water fees will increase as well. All on top of the normal taxes at, undoubtedly, the top rate possible. These officials are desperate to get any money they can grab; their spending is out of control; they have never met a spending “opportunity” they didn’t think was essential.

    If they were individual citizens using their own money with this kind of spending problem, they’d probably be sent to a “shopaholics anonymous” group therapy!

    Comment by mary — December 6, 2012 @ 7:02 pm

  4. That said, let me clarify that City Councilman Dan Gookin (comment#2) is one of the two who asks questions and votes against non-essential increases in city spending. We just need more like Dan so the votes will go their way.

    Comment by mary — December 6, 2012 @ 7:05 pm

  5. Mic Armon, like far too many elected officials in our area, became afflicted with the Indispensible Man Syndrome. The malady’s essence is that its host comes to believe that he or she is omniscient, that he or she cannot be replaced by a mere mortal without grave and irreparable harm to humanity. The cure for this affliction was developed in about 1959 by Saxon White Kessinger:

    THE INDISPENSABLE MAN

    Some time when you’re feeling important;

    Some time when your ego’s in bloom;

    Some time when you take it for granted,

    You’re the best qualified in the room;

    Some time when you think that your going,

    would leave an unfillable hole;

    Just follow this simple instruction

    And see how it humbles your soul.

    Take a bucket and fill it with water;

    Put your hands in it up to your wrists;

    Pull them out – and the hole that remains;

    Is the measure of how much you’ll be missed.

    You may splash as you please when you enter;

    You may stir up the water galore;

    But stop – and you’ll find in a second ,

    That it looks just the same as before.

    The moral of this is quite simple;

    Do just the best that you can,

    and be proud of yourself – but remember;

    There is no indispensable man.

    Comment by Bill — December 7, 2012 @ 6:40 am

  6. My NIC property tax statement shows a %53 increase in property taxes for years 2007 through 2012. My assessed single family home has decreased almost 29% since 2007.

    Comment by LTR — December 7, 2012 @ 9:02 am

  7. Bill, It’s so easy to pump up our own importance and this poem is something we should all keep in mind. But the other side of that thought is expressed in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, where the guy realizes how many lives he’s touched and helped. The truth is probably somewhere in between.

    Comment by mary — December 7, 2012 @ 11:33 am

  8. Thanks, LTR, for the info, you are in the same boat with so many of us. Some people say it doesn’t matter if our assessments drop but it’s really a lose-lose situation. If our property’s value goes down, it’s harder to sell for a profit or refinance for a better interest rate or get an equity loan.

    Most people think the lower values will reduce the taxes we pay but we’ve all seen that that is not true. The government continues to gobble up money as fast as ever…no, faster… so they just bump up the levy rate to get the total amount of money they need. No problem for them!

    Comment by mary — December 7, 2012 @ 11:34 am

  9. I do not believe anyone who states their property taxes for NIC would go down. It is not possible unless they sold off some property.

    Comment by LTR — December 7, 2012 @ 3:45 pm

  10. I miss jonny austin and his twists on how they can only take 3%. :(

    Comment by concerned citizen — December 8, 2012 @ 7:12 am

  11. CC: A taxing entity can only increase its budget by 3%, plus new growth (which they have an option not to take). The effect that has on your property tax depends on whether your assessment has gone up or down, but it also is affected by whether the homeowner’s exemption goes up or down. So even if NIC or the City took a 0% “increase,” your tax bill may still go up.

    The problem isn’t taxes. It’s spending.

    Ask yourself: Are you seeing an increase in service or the quality of those services for the extra you pay? Is the City or NIC providing perks that justify higher taxes? Will a new employer looking to relocate be able to justify higher taxes for those services and bring jobs to the area?

    Comment by Dan — December 8, 2012 @ 9:14 am

  12. I understand Dan. The city can take 3%. NIC can take 3%. Who else can take 3% or any other amount for that matter? Water rates up, storm water fees again… Will local taxing entities EVER live within OUR means?

    What ever happened to the JOB JOBS JOBS that the mayor promised?

    Comment by concerned citizen — December 8, 2012 @ 5:28 pm

  13. There is no limit to how much the City can raise its fees. It seems like every time a department asks, the Council says “Yes.” Those increases need to be factored in to the overall quality of life equation. This area cannot be justified as a retirement spot when local government constantly raises the cost of living. Businesses cannot relocate here if they know that elected “representatives” are all too eager to keep jacking up fees and taxes. It makes me wonder whether the goal is to provide services, or merely to push out the “undesirables” who aren’t in the wine-and-cheese crowd — the folks who have been described by a former elected official as “the good people.”

    JOBS JOBS JOBS

    Try PARKING GARAGE, PARKING GARAGE, PARKING GARAGE.

    Comment by Dan — December 9, 2012 @ 12:38 pm

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