CALDWELL — Six Canyon County public officials sent a letter to the Board of County Commissioners Wednesday, opposing the northern Caldwell urban renewal plan in its current form.
The board of three county commissioners was set to vote on approving the district on Thursday because much of the district would cover unincorporated county land. After receiving the public officials’ letter, they decided to wait to discuss the decision at a Nov. 25 meeting.
The letter, in email form, is signed by six elected officials, including County Clerk Chris Yamamoto, County Coroner Jennifer Crawford, Treasurer Tracie Lloyd, Assessor Brian Stender, Sheriff Kieran Donahue and Prosecutor Bryan Taylor.
“We understand that your Thursday agenda includes an action item to consider approval of Caldwell’s new proposed Urban Renewal District,” the email said. “That decision, which we acknowledge is within your sole authority to make, will obviously have consequences for all County taxpayers.”
The letter says the officials are concerned with the short time frame given for the commissioners and elected officials to review the Caldwell urban renewal revenue allocation area.
“Given that everyone’s taxes will increase and that urban renewal remains a hot-button legislative and community issue, we think it important that a record be developed that proves that Canyon County’s best interests have been similarly prioritized,” the letter said.
In an interview Thursday, Yamamoto said, “I have a philosophical problem with spending huge amounts of money, without a public vote.”
In the same interview, Canyon County Controller Zach Wagoner explained that if the northern Caldwell urban renewal allocation area is created, over 20 years, the property tax revenue from any development that goes into the area would be diverted from the county, school districts and highway districts, and into the urban renewal agency.
“But over those 20 years there is growth, there is development and those require services,” Wagoner told the Idaho Press. “With those services come a price tag, but since the urban renewal developments are not paying taxes to the entities providing those services, that increases the tax burden to everyone else.”
Yamamoto and Wagoner are open to compromise.
Urban renewal law requires agencies to direct revenue from tax increments — taxes paid on the district’s increased property value over its lifespan — into developing deteriorating parts of the district.
Yamamoto and Wagoner plan to suggest to commissioners that a percentage of the tax increment go to the county annually, not just after 20 years.
Yamamoto said he is not sure what the percentage would look like, but he suggested it would be over 30%.
The Board of Commissioners plans to meet with all county staff involved in the urban renewal proposal at its elected officials meeting Nov. 25.