The majority of Idahoans will support property taxes if they believe the taxes are applied fairly to all property owners, Idaho Tax Commissioner Carol Dick told a special legislative subcommittee.
The subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Jerry Thorne, R-Nampa, met as part of a joint committee reviewing Idaho's taxing system prior to the next legislative session.The total property taxes levied by Idaho's 44 counties have increased from more than $240 million in 1982 to a preliminary figure of $350 million in 1986. Ad valorem taxes dipped from more than $225 million in 1978 to $209 million the following year, the result of the 1 percent initiative which ultimately limited the tax increase a county could set each year to 5 percent.
In 1986, 44.7 percent of all property taxes went to the school districts.
The Republican legislative majority has been taken to task for passing a $356 million public school budget this year that Gov. Cecil Andrus and education officials consider completely inadequate for Idaho's educational needs.
As a result, patrons in over 50 school districts have approved more than $33 million in higher property taxes to compensate for the shortfall from the state.
"I think, on the whole, that ad valorem taxation is up front, easy to understand and easy to administer," Dick said Tuesday.
"I'm convinced the public will pay its fair share if it believes it is being treated fairly," she said.
Property taxation is simple to understand because the land or buildings are taxed by their market value, Dick said. It also has the advantage of being decreased as the total value of property in a county rises.
"The wider the base, the less those picking up the bill have to pay," Dick said. But she suggested a better definition of market value be included under state law.
Earlier, Association of Idaho Cities Director Jim Weatherby told another subcommittee the 1 percent initiative cap on tax increases had produced a proliferation of special taxing districts to circumvent the law.