Guest speakers at the Clearwater County Republican meeting held Sept. 9, were Susan Spencer and Dawn Erlewine.
Susan Spencer (Clearwater County Assessor) explained to the group that her job is mandated by the State of Idaho and the legislature. She has to keep the assessed value of the home from 90% to 100% of the market value or the State will come in and assess values themselves. She explained that a lot of people are moving into this area and paying quite a bit more on some homes than what they normally are valued at. When this happens, the assessed values will go up across the board.
The state mandates the assessed values of Clearwater County residents be done every five years. When the assessor’s office goes out to do evaluations, it really helps them if the residents will allow them onto their property so they can do a proper evaluation. If the residents do not allow them onto their property, the assessor office has to (estimate) the home to the best of their ability.
Susan stated that the tax commission checks her office four times per year to make sure her office is evaluating the homes correctly. The market for buying and selling changes all the time. There is no cap on the percentage that a value can raise. She and her office staff try to be as fair as they can, but if they do not raise the values enough, the state will come in and estimate for them.
Listening to Susan explain how evaluating homes throughout the county works, I discovered this is not an easy process. The state mandates the process and the county follows their rules and guidelines.
Dawn Erlewine was our next speaker. She is the Clearwater County Treasurer/Tax Collector and Public Administrator. She has been in county government for 19 years and an elected official since 2010.
Property taxes are used for schools, cities, counties, law enforcement, fire protection, highways and libraries. The state oversees all local property taxes. The counties follow Idaho tax statues that are found under Title 63. The counties levy and collect taxes to provide local services for the independent paying districts.
Dawn stated that in Clearwater County there are 124 code areas. 88 that are active and 45 taxing districts she collects funds for. Taxing districts have their own budgets. The county does not set the budgets, they collect the taxes for them. Tax code areas are determined by the state of Idaho. Where you live determines which taxing district you pay.
The budget in that coded area determines how much you pay. So how are your annual property taxes on your home determined? Dawn said it involves a lot of people working together. The individual taxing districts get their budget. Then the assessor goes out and assesses each individual parcel for the assessed value. Then the county auditor calculates the tax rate. Then it goes to the state to be approved and then back to Dawn’s office.
There she takes the levy times the value of your home and then creates a tax bill. Clearwater County is very large. We have four cities, four schools, five recreation districts, 10 cemeteries, three libraries. There is a total of 45 taxing districts. Everything is mandated by the State of Idaho. Dawn said “we just follow their guidelines.”
I would like to say thank you to Susan and Dawn for being our guest speakers and teaching us that there is a lot of work by both their offices into creating an assessment and tax bill for property owners.
The Clearwater County Republican party would like to invite our veterans and First Responders to a barbecue for them and their families on Friday, Sept. 25, at the Orofino City Park from 3 to 7 p.m. All others we will ask a $2 donation for the meal.