Twin Falls residents dodge big tax bullet | Southern Idaho Local News

TWIN FALLS — The Twin Falls City Council has opted to not go for the more than $2 million it’s passed up in property tax increases.

Council members set the city’s preliminary $66.1 million budget on Monday, which includes a 3 percent revenue increase plus an estimate of new growth. The new budget lowers Twin Falls’ tax rate by about 50 cents per $1,000 of taxable value.

The Council was given a choice to include some or all of the city’s foregone balance in the 2018 fiscal year’s budget. But seeing no specific projects lined up for that money, members voted to hold off another year.

“I do believe there are needs to help us meet the needs of the citizens that the foregone balance could be used for,” Mayor Shawn Barigar said. “But I also understand that taking it to have in a pot to then identify and create projects to meet those funds is completely backwards of the process that we go through so diligently in this budget process.”

Councilman Chris Talkington said he viewed the foregone balance as money the city uses for emergencies.

“I don’t find a justification to take it,” he said Monday.

But Councilwoman Ruth Pierce noted the money isn’t necessarily for emergencies, because the Council has to plan for it at the time it sets its budget.

The Council set a maximum tentative 2018 budget on Monday. Members can choose to set a final budget that is lower, but not higher than that amount.

“I think we’re taking on about as many projects as we can humanly get done in the next year,” Vice Mayor Suzanne Hawkins said.

The budget passed unanimously, but councilwoman Nikki Boyd was not present.

The new budget includes a tax rate of $7.52 per $1,000 in value. The city’s taxable value increased to $2.6 billion — a new high. But the estimate of new construction, $49.2 million, was about $17.9 million lower than what it had in the 2017 fiscal year budget.

While the tax rate is lower, some individuals may still pay more this year depending on the assessed value of their homes.

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Under the preliminary 2018 budget, a Twin Falls homeowner with the median home value of $147,200 would pay $554.05 in property taxes for the year. That’s about a $12.87 decrease from what the median valued home would have been taxed this past year, when the median home value was $141,200.

The budget also includes a 96-cent monthly increase for the average water customer using 18,000 gallons; a $1.30 monthly increase for the average sewer user; and a 36-cent monthly increase for sanitation and recycling.

During the public input, Twin Falls property owner Terry Edwards pointed out several budget increases he felt illustrated the city not exercising constraint in its budgeting. Among these were a 3.5 percent performance-based adjustment for city employees and a 5 percent compensation table shift for city employees.

The City Council canceled its meeting scheduled for Aug. 23, when it intended to receive public comment on the budget. Instead, the public is invited to contact Council members individually, or attend a public hearing for the budget at 6 p.m. Aug. 28.

Also at the meeting, the Council:

Received an update on the $4.4 million it budgeted for repairing winter damage to roads. The city has contracted $2.1 million in project and will defer a reconstruction project on Frontier Road from Falls Avenue to the College of Southern Idaho. Instead, the city may take on alternative projects such as an overlay of Locust Street from Falls Avenue to Filer Avenue.

Pre-approved an FAA grant offer and approved a reciprocal transfer agreement with Boise airport so the airport could purchase a new fire truck and construct a taxi lane. The Council also awarded a $3.6 million bid to Idaho Construction and Materials for the new taxi lane and reconstruction of Taxiway A.

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