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Fire Vote 2011: Who Should Pay?

Newspaper: Valley Citizen & Teton Valley News

Understanding property taxes is about as exciting as watching paint dry. Nonetheless, property taxes fund the critical public services upon which we rely in our daily lives. This election, the voters of Teton County will choose who pays for fire services and who will not. The price difference between a YES or a NO vote is huge. A NO vote translates to a 78% tax increase for homeowners!

 This election has nothing to do with the Fire District’s budget, but rather, how the District levies taxes. But for all you budget watchers out there, the District is actually cutting their 2012 budget by almost 15%. (FY 2011 taxes levied was $2,165,200, and the FY 2012 taxes will be $1,845,000)

Since the District was formed, it has taxed all improvements, structures, and all non-agricultural land in the county. This will not change, regardless of how the vote turns out.

Voting YES on the ballot question maintains the status quo and allows the Fire District to continue to assess taxes in the same method as always.

Voting NO on the ballot question means that only improvements and structures will be taxed – not land. Thus, the Fire District will have to collect their budget from a significantly smaller pool of taxable properties. Anyone who owns a house or other structure will have to pay roughly 78% more from their current tax assessment in order to make up for the difference. In technical terms, the District mill levy would increase from .0013 to roughly .0024 – even with 15% budget reduction.

Improvements and structures create the bulk of the value on land. Therefore, even if your house sits on a large parcel of land, the money you save if your land is no longer taxed by the Fire District is likely to be much less than the 78% larger tax bill for your house. (See line 3 of the chart below)

The primary beneficiaries of a NO vote are people who own non-agricultural land without any structures or improvements. The most obvious example would be owners of vacant subdivision lots. See the chart below for some examples of real properties in Teton County.

 

Fire Vote 2011 chart

 

 

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