Taxing District Transparency
Kootenai County’s has 44 taxing districts, (perhaps 46) and one common complaint I’ve heard over and over again is how the amount of property taxes keeps going up. Property assessments and tax bills can sometimes be confusing to property owners, but the check they have to write is their simple way they decide if their taxes are going up or down. The average property owner may have 6, 8 or more taxing districts plus various bonds on any year’s tax bill.
There may be some taxing districts that are holding the line, staying equal to or under inflation, but others might be spending much more aggressively. Providing citizens with taxing district information will help citizens understand how each district is being managed.
Idaho has a great website for transparency. Its called “Transparent Idaho” and on that web site you can find all kinds of information about state spending and revenue. It lists by name every single state employee and their hourly and annual pay rates, it lists every person making more than the governor, it lists every single state contractor, the amount and items bought. Tons of info that informs citizens what their state government is doing.
Technology has transformed America, now we have literally 60% of the worlds history available to us in our hands (Smartphones), but the one thing you cannot get very easily is information about many of Kootenai County’s local taxing districts. Obviously each taxing district has the information, its just not displayed and available to taxpayers. In this day and age, we can easily change that. Below is the kind of information each taxing district could/should make available to taxpayers. I’ll be requesting that all of them work to get this information up by mid-April. (remember, according to Idaho law, they would have just 10 days to comply with a citizens public record request.) Making this info available is “the right thing to do.” Note- Not included in this list are the various sewer and water districts.
- Last 10 years’ worth of revenue and expense budgets broken down by major categories. Ideally in spreadsheet format, adding charts to make it simpler for citizens is best. Posting of the adopted budgets in PDF file is also a very good thing to do.
- List 10 yrs worth of important statistical data related to the taxing district. For instance, the population of the city or covered area, the number of employees employed by the district, the number of students enrolled (if a school) the amount of roads maintained, etc. Anything that helps the taxpayer understand what the taxing district does.
- Each taxing district should list by year each bond, the original and remaining balance on that bond, and when it expires.
- List all employees of the taxing district making over $60,000 p/yr and their salary.
- List the annual gross income received by each elected official for each of the last 5 years. For some taxing districts the elected may get no money for serving, others may get a full annual salary. (Assessor gets a full annual salary, the hospital board takes none)
- List the “employee” benefits each elected official is receiving: like retirement, health care, dental, gas allowance, etc., for the prior year.
- List the levy rate levied by the taxing district for each of the last 10 years.
- List the top 10% payees/recipients/contractors of moneys from the taxing district, for the prior year.
- List any lawsuits, by year and date for the last 10 years and the resulting judgment. When the other party cannot be named because of a judge requirement to seal the person, leave the name blank.
- Other info the taxing district would like taxpayers to know!
Each property owner will have several of the following taxing districts levying a portion of the tax that comes on your November tax bill.