Could tax repeal ‘devastate’ public schools?

The proposal to eliminate $141 million in personal property taxes on business equipment and supplies would have a “devastating” effect on public schools.

That’s the opinion of Michael Ferguson, who spent 25 years advising Republican and Democratic governors as the state’s chief economist.

Ferguson, director of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy, wrote a lengthy article Wednesday on the “three-pronged hit” facing public schools:

• The bill would offset $90 million of the $141 million cost of repeal — but that takes $90 million from the general fund. Since nearly half of the general fund goes to K-12, this could mean upwards of a $45 million hit for K-12.

• When $41.2 million of tax burden is shifted from personal property to real property, there is “a high probability” that voters would be less inclined to support property tax levies or bond issues.

• The bill would not provide any replacement revenue for school levies passed after 2012, leaving schools on their own to deal with the reduced tax base.

Writes Ferguson: “(This proposal) is notable for the adverse impact it will have on Idaho’s ability to provide funds for public education. It does protect non-school local government from much of the revenue losses associated with full exemption of personal property taxes, but it does so with a significant amount of revenue diverted from the general fund, and without any apparent analysis of the impact that diversion of funds will have on state programs.”

Here’s a link to Ferguson’s full analysis.

And here are links to our in-depth look at the issue, and the Idaho School Boards Association’s opposition to the proposal.