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Controversy hits City Council budget discussions

The Idaho Falls City Council is discussing a tax increase at Thursday’s meeting, but there’s some disagreement on whether the increase is fair.

The city is proposing a 3 percent increase in city employee wages (estimated $1.2 million), which could also increase property taxes by the same amount.
According to council member Sharon Parry, the original numbers of the tax increase would mostly affect business properties and not homes with a lower value. But new numbers reflect homes valued lower than $250,000 will also carry a similar burden.

“The presentation that was given to the council and the mayor, advocated strongly by the mayor, was that the 3 percent increase statutory maximum would have a net effect on homes valued at $250,000 or less, that their taxes would decrease when in fact it’s exactly the opposite,” she said.

Parry says data from the county shows how the tax increase would work. Council member Barbara Ehardt is also concerned about tax hikes she says the local economy has yet to prove that businesses are generating enough revenue to withstand a tax hike.

“I would like to take a more slow and more steady approach. One that’s a little more conservative. One that says we need to make sure that our businesses are doing well before we move forward and look to increase other aspects of the city,” she said.

Ehardt said she is not against raising money for city workers, instead there has to be a way to implement a raise without increased taxes.

She and Parry are worried that the increase could affect the economy by deterring businesses from moving to the city. This has caused frustrations with other council members, including Council President Michael Lehto.

“I think it’s a good proposal. It meets the needs of our five years capital plan of what we planned to do and what we stated we planned to do. If there’s an issue, now is the time for alternatives and counter proposals, but I haven’t heard of any.” he said after last week’s council work session.

The council will be discussing the budget at the City Council meeting Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the City Annex Building located at 680 Park Avenue in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The budget will be published on Aug. 23 and a public hearing will be held on Sept. 3 at 7:30 p.m.

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