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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Urban Renewal Repeal White Paper at Republican State Republican Convention

This post is a copy of a document to be presented at the Republican State Convention in Twin Falls. The CALDWELL GUARDIAN will gladly post similar items from the Dems.

By Rachel S. Gilbert

Do you wonder why your property taxes are so high and continue to rise year after year? Do you wonder why cities and counties are forced to raise your property taxes to pay for fire and police protection, schools, streets and roads, the courts, libraries, county sheriff operations, and a host of other essential services for cities and counties? Are you concerned about school levies year after year?
Here’s the problem, and it’s huge and complicated: URBAN RENEWAL AGENCIES are eviscerating our property tax base and getting away with it! How does that happen?
The Idaho Legislature passed the URBAN RENEWAL law in 1965 to rebuild BOISE’S infamous gutted downtown. At first it was funded by HUD, but when these federal funds dried up, urban renewal languished in Idaho for about 20 years. The problem was funding.
So in 1988 BOISE devised a new, cunning financing scheme called TAX INCREMENT FINANCING (TIF), which very few people understood. It allowed UR agencies to skim our property taxes to fund their questionable projects.
Then in 1997, UR took off like a rocket!! The LOCAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT LAW was passed. I call this law FOOD STAMPS FOR BUSINESSES. City mayors loved it! Developers loved it! Beneficiaries loved it! Farmers hated it! Now Mayors don’t have to go to the people for a pesky general two-thirds obligation bond to build public buildings! They just build them in an UR district and skim future property taxes for up to 24 years. WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE???

Is it not unfair and undemocratic to have UNELECTED, MAYOR-APPOINTED Commissioners spending our property taxes without a vote of the people? Are we going to allow UR to have TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION? LONG-TERM BONDING AUTHORITY without a vote of the people? UNELECTED UR COMMISSIONERS? AUTHORITY TO CONDEMN and take our properties? POLICE POWERS? AUTHORITY TO TAKE HUGE TRACTS OF LAND INTO UR DISTRICTS? What awesome power!!

There are now 70 urban renewal districts in 24 Idaho counties, and last year UR diverted over $52 million from our property tax base. How much was skimmed from your county property tax base last year? Let’s look at a few counties: ADA ….$10.4 million; BANNOCK….$4.9 million; BONNEVILLE…$3.3 million; CANYON…$9.8 Million; CASSIA…$2.2 million; JEROME…$3.1 million; KOOTENAI…$11 million; TWIN FALLS…$2.3 million.

Clearly, this is not just an ADA County problem, and most of you have heard about abuses: Nampa’s Idaho Center still requires a $1.2 million bailout from property taxes to pay its bills.  Coeur d’Alene has a creative “shoestring” approach to take in properties from afar, and its mayor’s greed for more is without limit.  Pocatello’s URA gave $1 million to Costco to subsidize its relocation to the city!  Caldwell URA is subsidizing the YMCA for $9.7 million until 2014. Caldwell also handed out $30,000 for a beauty salon. The list goes on, and on and on. What’s happening to private enterprise?

These property tax dollars are desperately needed for our schools and city and county needs. We can no longer afford this costly diversion that is gutting our property tax base.
Legislators have tried year after year to tweak the UR law to protect our property tax base, but the tax-paid attorneys and lobbyists, and beneficiaries have been too powerful!
There is only one solution: REPEAL THE IDAHO URBAN RENEWAL LAW.
CALIFORNIA REPEALED ITS UR LAW ON February 1, 2012. It was the first state to have urban renewal in 1945 and the first to repeal under Governor Jerry Brown’s leadership. The city mayors and beneficiaries squawked mightily, but the California Supreme court ruled the repeal constitutional!! Now 425 UR districts will be eliminated, and eventually $5.5 billion will go to schools and other essential services.

Senator Bart Davis has expressed concern about repealing the Idaho Personal Property tax, which provides 11% of property tax revenue state-wide. UR REPEAL would eventually put over $52 million back to cities and counties for schools and essential services. Senator Davis would be a great sponsor for REPEAL OF URBAN RENEWAL.
YOU CAN HELP. Talk to your legislators about REPEAL. We can restore our property tax base! Farmers and county residents are especially getting smacked hard to support city urban renewal spending habits, so do talk to your legislators. They will do nothing without your clear support.


Rachel S. Gilbert 208-376-6300
Member Idaho Legislator 1980-1990
4200 Mountain View Drive
Boise, Id 83704


  1. Urban renewal is nothing more than a big liability on a community, and liabilities just grow and grow. Maybe that is Team Tom Dale's idea of growth, and his excuse for higher property taxes. Is it November 2013 yet?

  2. Urban Renewal is one of those things that sound really great. Right up there with Mom and apple pie or graham crackers and milk, the reality is far different. The reality is URA's are theft of property tax dollars. It is a glorified subsidy to developers on Ag land in our cities in Idaho. They feed off of new growth as all the new tax dollars generated from new growth goes to UR boards to spend as they see fit while essential city services suffer a lack of funding.

    What is really crazy is cities get away with this legislature approved theft of property tax dollars. Rachel Gilbert has it right and we need the Idaho Legislature to simply unwind URA's in Idaho and put taxpayes back in charge of how their property tax dollars get spent.

  3. It is political three cart monty with our money. When property owners finally figure out the scheme they're highly offended. And the really odd part is the williness to repeal URA's in liberal California and the unwillingness to do the same in ultra conservative Idaho.

    Legal challenges have gone nowhere due to the reasons cited in upholding the repeal in Ca. The Legislature created the laws and the Legislature needs to fix the laws. Special interests love URA's and consider them a source of "entitlements" from cities. I look at my tax bill and find that I am fed up and frustrated our citizen Legislature continues to support this fraud on Idaho property owners.

  4. Urban Renewal is kind of akin to that pesky phone solicitor that tells you that he or she can solve all of your debt problems in one mighty swoop. If you fall for his scam you wind up paying more money, incurring more debt, losing everything you got, and left out in the street laying in the gutter. Time to stop doing this to the Idaho taxpayers.


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