Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Creation of a Local Improvement District for Streetcar is an Unfair Distribution of Tax Burden

In order to pay for the approximately $20 to $25 million of the Boise city share of the streetcar project, the city would have to create a local improvement district, or LID, on approximately 660 downtown properties.  The LID cost per property would be based on a per square foot charge over 20 years.

LID's are usually created for infrastructure improvements for the general good of the district, such as sewers and sidewalks.  The creation of a LID for public transportation in Boise is unprecedented.

This LID proposal is what I would call a 'lopsided LID' because it has a much bigger impact on some property owners than others.  Owners of large properties will pay more than owners of smaller ones.  The property owners that are the farthest away from the proposed route will see the least benefit from the streetcar (which in my  opinion has little to none), but they still have to pay the same tax per square foot.

The largest property owners downtown will pay the most in LID taxes, but will see the least benefit from a streetcar.  Companies like Idaho Power, St. Luke's, the former Boise Cascade building, and the larger office and bank buildings all have their own parking lots or garages.  Very few people would take a streetcar to or from those destinations, because if a person is driving downtown, they would simply use one of the existing parking areas to go to their destination.

For example, if you were going to the hospital, you wouldn't drive downtown and park at 13th and Main and then wait for a streetcar to take you to St. Luke's; you would simply drive all the way there and park in their parking lot or garage.  Yet, St. Luke's will be one of the, if not the, highest taxed properties in the district.

Residential properties in the district will also be taxed, even though they could not possibly be considered as a streetcar origin or destination.

In short, the proposed LID is a punitive way to raise taxes on property owners to pay for a project that has almost no real benefit to the district as a whole.  It's unfortunate that under state law, no vote of the property owners is required to create the LID; only 3 people on the city council are needed.


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