Editor's note: This story has been edited to fix incorrect information regarding Pullman property taxes.
Tax bills for Moscow residents will rise if voters approve a $9.64 million general obligation bond to help fund a new police station in May.
With an assessed home valuation of $200,000 and a $100,000 taxable valuation after deducting the $100,000 state homeowner’s exemption, a Moscow homeowner would have paid $1,720.74 in property taxes in 2018, according to the Latah County Assessor’s Office.
If voters pass the bond, that payment will grow by $84.75 annually during the 10-year bond.
By comparison, with a $100,000 taxable valuation of a home in the 83706 zip code, or generally west and south of downtown Boise, a homeowner would have paid $1,518.27 in 2018, according to the Ada County Assessor’s Office.
A Pullman property owner would have paid about $2,900, according to the Whitman County Assessor’s Office. Washington does not have a state homeowner's exemption. In Lewiston a property owner would have paid $2,185.21 last year, according to the Nez Perce County Assessor’s Office.
Moscow Mayor Bill Lambert said the extra expense that would come with passage of the bond, which equates to $7.05 per month on a $100,000 taxable valuation, is not a huge burden to taxpayers.
While the city has no outstanding general obligation bond debt, Moscow and Latah County voters may be asked to vote for several multi-million dollar bonds to pay for schools and other facilities in the next decade.
One of those bonds could be to fund a new county jail and sheriff’s office.
Latah County Sheriff Richie Skiles said he supports the May police station bond, but he is worried voters may be reluctant to pay for another bond if this one passes.
Skiles said the jail is already undersized, and while he believes it can accommodate the next decade, a new jail will definitely be needed around 2030.
“I know I’m going to need a place in 10 years,” he said. “I could use one now.”
He said the cost of a new jail and department will be significantly more in a decade. Skiles said the county recently paid for two jail doors so the facility would be in compliance with state regulations.
“Two electric jail doors was $50,000, so you could imagine what it’s going to cost to build a jail,” he said.
Another potential bond in the coming years could help pay for new Moscow schools.
The district’s newest school, A.B. McDonald Elementary, opened its doors in 1968, and Russell Elementary School is the oldest at 90 years old.
“When I personally think about what government’s most important roles are, I think it’s public safety and education,” said Jon Kimberling, president of Safer Moscow, a nonprofit organization of Moscow residents, businesses and groups working to help pass the May police station bond. “And so it won’t be a tough decision for me to support all of these efforts in their due time.”
Kimberling estimated the police station bond would probably be halfway paid off by the time a new jail or school bond is proposed.
Like Lambert, Kimberling said he does not believe the bond will be too burdensome for residents, especially when comparing the almost $10 million bond to a potential jail or school bond, which could each be significantly more.
He also noted the savings the 10-year police station bond would have compared to a longer-term bond. According to the city, the 10-year term provides an interest savings of more than $2.2 million to taxpayers when compared to a 20-year bond.
About $7.89 million of the bond would fund the construction of the police station, which is proposed for the corner of Southview Avenue and South Main Street/U.S. Highway 95 just west of The Grove Apartments. The remainder of the bond, which requires a two-thirds supermajority to pass, would fund the remodeling of the existing police station to accommodate other city office needs ($1.5 million) and the remodeling of the city’s Paul Mann Building located next to city hall ($132,043).
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to email@example.com.