Like clockwork, it’s budget season in the City of Boise once again.
On Tuesday, Boise City Council kicked off its annual process to evaluate its revenue and priorities to build the municipal budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The 2023 budget, which will be rolled out in pieces this spring before the final draft is available to the public in June, will cover all of the city’s operations, capital projects, and staff for the next year.
Mayor Lauren McLean said this week she directed staff to study the impact of not taking the full 3% increase to property tax collections allowed under Idaho code. She said at a time when property values (and the corresponding taxes) are still on the rise and inflation is eating away at the purchasing power of Boiseans wages, it’s important for the city to find a way to meet its growing needs without overburdening residents.
“I’m really impressed with staff’s commitment to meeting these goals and not sacrificing the experience we have here for those who are coming, but at the same time we need to explore some relief for existing residents,” McLean said in a strategic planning session.
For more relief for low-income homeowners, McLean said she is excited to take advantage of a new process the Idaho Legislature voted to create this year allowing cities to give property tax rebates back to residents, like the state of Idaho does. She said the city is looking at giving rebates to Boiseans using the state’s property tax reduction program, which gives property tax discounts to low-income seniors, veterans and disabled Idahoans.
Commercial versus residential assessments
Not all properties are created equal under Idaho’s property assessment system.
In 2016, the Idaho legislature voted to stop indexing the homeowner’s exemption to inflation and set it at a set rate of $100,000. This allowed the state’s tax break for homeowners to stay static while home values shot through the roof, leaving an increasingly heavy tax burden on homeowners and decreasing tax bills for commercial property. Under this system, even when local governments don’t increase property taxes, or even make multi-million dollar budget cuts, homeowners will still pay a higher tax bill.
After years of asking the legislature to index the homeowner’s exemption and boost funding for the property tax reduction program, McLean and other council members zeroed in on a different element of the puzzle: commercial real estate assessments.
Every county has an assessor who is legally bound to study the market and assess the value of residential and commercial properties to determine what their tax bill should be. Assessing home sales is easy in Idaho because the county can study MLS data real estate agents report to in order to see what properties are going for. But, there is no similar system for the prices of commercial properties, and owners aren’t required to disclose sales prices.
This leaves assessors largely in the dark when they have to determine the worth of a property that’s not a home. Because of the lack of transparency, some elected officials and others believe this allows values for commercial properties to be undervalued, letting them pay lower taxes than homeowners.
Ada County Assessor Bob McQuade made a presentation to Boise City Council on Tuesday morning, where McLean asked him several pointed questions about how he is pushing for reform in this area. He said he hoped for a disclosure requirement, but wasn’t optimistic it would happen anytime soon. McQuade will step down at the end of 2022 after nearly thirty years of holding the position.
“The best thing would be disclosure where they have to disclose this (sale) information to us,” he said, about commercial property owners. “We’ve been asking for it for years and years and years, but the legislature is not known for that at all. That will be left for someone else to get that done.”
‘It’s not about sticking it to businesses’
McLean and the rest of the Boise City Council were not impressed with the status quo.
Later in the meeting, after McQuade left, they aired their grievances about the Idaho Legislature and the county assessors for not fighting harder for an equal process for assessing commercial property. McLean floated the possibility of finding a way to freeze residential property values in order to provide some relief, but Budget Director Eric Bilimoria said due to the assessor’s legal responsibility to assess properties within 10% of their actual value that wasn’t likely an option.
“If the assessor is bound to be within 10% accuracy, but the information (on commercial sales) doesn’t exist where is the accountability?” McLean asked. “Can residents make a complaint that the assessment on a commercial property isn’t accurate in the same way residents can show up to contest an assessment on their own property? I don’t understand this piece.”
City Council Member Patrick Bageant said the city is not trying to demonize businesses, but it’s important to make sure everyone is paying their fair share.
“It’s not about sticking it to businesses,” Bageant said. “The reason we’re talking about this is because every dollar a commercial property owner avoids in taxes they should pay based on the actual value it’s a dollar homeowners have to pay instead, so in an actual real way if this dynamic is happening homeowners are paying taxes for businesses and that’s the problem.”
City Council President Pro Term Holli Woodings weighed in too, adding some sharp words for the Idaho Legislature’s property tax strategy. She said state legislators only listen to business interests and ignore the please of city officials who constantly hear from their constituents crushed under the burden of rapidly rising property taxes.
“We’re not respected,” she said, about local government officials’ efforts at the legislature. “We’re not invited into conversations about actual property tax relief. Instead, any of the real solutions are jettisoned by lobbyists representing business.”
CDFW Announces Closure of Commercial Dungeness Crab Fishery Off Central California to Protect Humpback Whales
California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham has assessed entanglement risk under the Risk Assessment Mitigation Program (RAMP) and announced the closure of the commercial Dungeness crab fishery in Fishing Zones 3, 4, 5 and 6 (Sonoma/Mendocino county line to the U.S./Mexico border) effective at noon on April 8, 2022. This closure is being implemented because of two recent humpback whale entanglements that occurred off San Mateo County and in Monterey Bay involving California commercial Dungeness crab fishing gear. All commercial Dungeness crab traps must be removed from the fishing grounds by the April 8 closure date. While this closure shortens the season for many fishermen, the RAMP regulations are designed to minimize risk and provide for a long-term viable fishery for all Californians. In addition, the Director has authorized the Lost and Abandoned Gear Retrieval Program to begin removing commercial Dungeness crab traps left in the water beginning April 15, 2022, at noon in Zones 3, 4, 5 and 6.
CDFW asks fishermen and mariners to be on the lookout for entangled whales and report them so that a disentanglement response team can be mobilized to remove the gear. Reports can be made to 1-877-SOS-WHALE or contact the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16. The recreational fishery in these zones remains open but may be subject to a future trap restriction when humpbacks return to forage during the spring and summer. In addition, CDFW is continuing a Fleet Advisory and reminds all in the commercial and recreational fisheries to implement best practices, as described in the Best Practices Guide (PDF).
“The past few seasons have been difficult for fishing families, communities and businesses, but it is imperative that we strike the right balance between protecting humpback whales and providing fishing opportunity,” said Director Bonham. “The fleet has done an impressive job helping CDFW manage risk of entanglement in the commercial fishery, including starting to remove fishing gear when the entanglements were first reported. This partnership helps ensure we protect future opportunities to fish and the incredible biodiversity of our ocean.”
A map of all Fishing Zones (JPG) can be found on the CDFW website. For more information related to the risk assessment process, please visit CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries webpage. For more information on the Dungeness crab fishery, please visit CDFW’s Crab webpage, including FAQs (PDF) for the 2021-22 commercial fishing season and FAQs for the new recreational crab trap regulations.
SACRAMENTO – The California Air Resources Board today approved updates to its Commercial Harbor Craft Regulation aimed at reducing emissions from harbor craft like tugboats and ferries operated near California’s coast to improve public health in nearby communities, many of which are disadvantaged.
By 2035, the amendments are expected to result in an 89 percent reduction of diesel soot (also known as particulate matter) and a 54 percent reduction in nitrogen oxides. The amendments will also reduce the cancer risk to over 22 million residents who live near the coast and up to 50 miles inland.
“Emissions from harbor craft contribute to toxic diesel emissions from coastal and port activities,” said CARB Chair Liane Randolph. “These amendments will help clean the air and protect public health, especially in port-adjacent communities that are already burdened by high levels of air pollution.”
Marine engines are regulated with Tier 1 being the earliest emission standard and Tier 4 being the newest, least-polluting standard. CARB is proposing a performance standard cleaner than Tier 4. Most harbor craft vessels use old engine technology such as Tier 2 engines that release 162 times more diesel particulate matter than a five-year-old school bus. With today’s amendments, the diesel soot reduction achieved by 2038 is equal to eliminating 246,000 heavy‑duty diesel trucks traveling from Los Angeles to Sacramento every day for a year.
The current commercial harbor craft regulation accelerated the move to Tier 2 and 3 engines for select categories beginning in 2009 through 2022; the new amendments will require zero-emission options where feasible, and cleaner combustion Tier 3 and 4 engines on all other vessels. In addition, they will require the use of diesel particulate filters, which are standard equipment on new cars and trucks. Short run ferries, which include those traveling less than three nautical miles over a single run, will be required to be fully zero-emission by the end of 2025. New excursion vessels, such as vessels offering whale watching or dinner cruises, are also required to be capable of operating with at least 30 percent of the power from a zero‑emission source.
The approved amendments include, for all vessel categories, compliance flexibilities such as fleet averaging or additional compliance time on other vessels in a fleet if a zero-emission vessel is deployed where it is feasible but not required.
The amendments affect all categories of commercial harbor craft and establish the first emission standard requirements for commercial passenger fishing vessels, pilot vessels, tank barges over 400 feet, workboats and research vessels. These vessels are required to use cleaner engine fuel to reduce emissions under the current regulation, but they were not required to upgrade to cleaner engines previously. CARB held hundreds of public meetings, several public workshops, considered stakeholder input and conducted site visits to develop the amendments.
Today’s amendments will begin phasing in starting in 2023 through the end of 2032. As a result of input from stakeholders, CARB incorporated compliance extensions for some vessel categories that would not have to upgrade until the end of 2034 if the vessel owner applies for and receives an extension if a replacement vessel is required but cannot be afforded. To address concerns raised by the sportfishing industry, the Board approved changes recommended by staff that provide a one-time ten-year extension option for commercial passenger fishing vessels until 2035 if a vessel is equipped with all Tier 3 engines by the end of 2024. This change will provide more certainty for vessel owners, as well as come at a lower cost with no need to renew extensions every two years.
In addition, the Board directed staff to establish a technical working group and provide updates to the Board every two years beginning in 2024. Updates would include the status of commercial harbor craft technology advancement that staff would use to explore future opportunities to adopt more stringent zero-emission requirements in the future. In addition, the Board directed staff to continue collaborating with the sportfishing industry and conduct a review of technology available for sportfishing vessels by 2028.
Incentive funding opportunities are available for operators, especially those taking early action or measures beyond what is required by the regulation. Funding opportunities may exist through the Carl Moyer Program, Community Air Protection Incentives, Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust, and other opportunities such as the Advanced Technology Demonstration and Pilot Projects program funded through the Low Carbon Transportation program.