By one national survey firm’s estimation, Blaine County has the seventh-lowest tax burden among the 44 counties in Idaho.
The survey, from SmartAsset, concluded that residents of Blaine County pay more in fuel tax than all but five counties. The county has one of the lowest property tax rates in the state, it stated.
Does this mean Blaine County is a low-tax paradise? Not necessarily — tax burdens, like beauty, depend on the beholder.
The survey didn’t include any of the local-option taxes that Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley apply to a variety of goods and services sold to tourists and local residents alike.
Hailey, for example, assesses a 1 percent surcharge on restaurant food, a 2 percent surcharge on alcoholic drinks, and similar 4 percent taxes on lodging and car rentals.
Ketchum, Stanley and Sun Valley have their own mix of local-option taxes that are added on to the state sales tax of 6 percent, but that was not factored into the survey’s results.
These cities are among 13 resort destinations and three auditorium districts in Idaho that levy such taxes, and make up a key source of tax revenue from Blaine County’s tourism-dependent economy.
The survey, however, concluded that Blaine County residents spend an average of $945 annually on sales tax, based on the assumption that 35 percent of take-home pay would be for taxable goods. That’s inaccurate because it didn’t factor in the local-option taxes.
One of the biggest factors in the survey determining that Blaine County has a low tax burden is its low property tax rate.
The county consistently ranks among the lowest in Idaho in property tax rate, which was .808 percent in cities in 2014, and .692 percent of value in rural areas, according to the Idaho State Tax Commission.
Only Custer County, with a .697 percent property tax rate in urban areas and .437 percent of value for rural households, ranked lower last year, according to a Tax Commission report.
But as Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen pointed out, the county’s tax roll has one of the highest total valuations in the state, behind far larger counties such as Ada or Kootenai counties.
On a per-capita basis, Blaine’s property valuation easily ranks first, Schoen said.
“We are very low in the rate we charge because of the high valuation,” Schoen said. “It’s a low rate applied to a high value.”
He noted that the property tax rates will fluctuate greatly within Blaine County, depending on which taxing districts a resident happens to live in.
Schools make up the largest portion of property tax charges on a typical bill. A $153,000 home in Hailey paid $677 in property tax to the Blaine County School District last year, according to records from the Blaine County Treasurer’s Office.
The total property tax bill was $1,463, and also included levies from the city of Hailey, the Blaine County Recreation District, the Ambulance District, bonding, the county government and the Bellevue Cemetery District.
A $1.29 million home on Crown Point Lane in Sun Valley, by contrast, had a $10,487 property tax bill that included charges for schools, ambulance service, recreation, water and sewer, the city of Sun Valley, and bonds.
The survey ranked Blaine County 39th in the amount motorists spend every year on fuel taxes. That’s based on estimation on the total vehicle miles traveled and the number of licensed drivers in Blaine County.
It estimated that Blaine County drivers have spent about $268 on gasoline taxes annually, which was higher than the statewide average of $228.