The Ada County commissioners voted to cut property taxes by $12 million for the upcoming fiscal year on Wednesday.
Deliberations over the $284 million budget for the 2022 fiscal year, which begins October 1, started on Monday. More than 62% of the budget goes to public safety and judicial services, which include the Sheriff’s Office, Emergency Medical Services, the Public Defender and Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, according to a news release from Ada County.
During the week of analysis, each Ada County department and elected offices submit their expected expenses and revenues, which the commissioners use to hash out the budget.
On Wednesday, the commissioners voted to provide $12 million in tax relief.
“It’s exciting that we can provide $12 million in tax relief to the citizens of Ada County,” said the chair of the commissioners, Rod Beck, on Wednesday.
The last time the county provided property tax relief was in 1980, according to Phil McGrane, the Ada County Clerk.
Beck requested that $4 million of the cut come from funds delivered to Ada County through the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, which was passed under the Biden administration. The remaining $8 million will come from a reduction in the tax levy.
McGrane cautioned the commissioners at an open meeting on Tuesday that money from the new federal relief fund cannot be used by states to cut taxes. He said that how the law applies to local governments is ambiguous; it does not stipulate whether they can use the funds to reduce taxes.
“There’s always the risk of needing to pay that money back,” McGrane said.
Commissioner Beck said that he believed Congress had deliberately left local governments out of that prohibition.
“There is no prohibition at all mentioned in the law on counties using the funds for property tax reduction,” Beck said. “Therefore, one has to conclude that maybe they did look at it and they just decided not to address that issue. … I hope that the Congress of the United States didn’t forget about it, (but) that they conscientiously didn’t put it in there.”
Commissioner Kendra Kenyon said she agreed with Beck.
“I’m comfortable with this amount, based on what we’ve said we have in there to cover it, if for some horrible reason we were asked to pay (it) back,” she said on Tuesday. “I feel it’s a risk that we can take right now.”
The tentative budget will be presented to the public on July 21, and the commissioners are scheduled to adopt the tentative budget on July 27, according to McGrane. The final budget will be adopted in August.