The 1978 initiative revolt against property taxes in Idaho has been largely responsible for the nearly 10 percent increase in the number of special-purpose taxing districts across the state, officials believe.
Association of Idaho Cities Director Jim Weatherby told a special legislative committee on Monday that even though much of the "1 Percent" initiative enacted a decade ago has been counteracted, the remaining 5 percent annual cap on increasing property tax revenues is responsible for the increase in special taxing districts."We're close to 1,000 governmental entities in this state," Weatherby said, "and those numbers continue to grow."
"The 5 percent cap has created pressure for people to look for ways of circumvention, and one of the ways of circumvention is creating a new district," he said.
Since the initiative was approved, the number of special-purpose taxing districts has risen from about 900 to over 980 as local residents find ways to provide needed services that financially-strapped county governments have no money to finance.
"I've never seen one turned down," Sen. William Ringert, R-Boise, said. "We're looking at a lot of local problems."
The panel, a subcommittee of a joint legislative committee charged with a full review of the state's tax structure prior to next winter's session, is trying to get a handle on the property tax system and the explosion of special districts with their own taxing power.
"Once they're established, you can't get rid of them," Legislative Council Director Myran Schlechte said.
At least one special-purpose district - for rural waste disposal - has no statutory basis, Schlechte said, while legal authority still exists for other kinds of districts that has never been used or can no longer be justified. Weather Modification Districts are just one example.
Weatherby and several subcommittee members acknowledged the volume of special districts has led to confusion among patrons and duplication of activity in some cases.
But while consolidation or turning services over to private industry would ease those problems and simplify things, Rep. Mack Neibaur, R-Paul, conceded the lack of money would stand in the way.
The subcommittee will make its recommendations to the full committee this fall.