Application denied: Board unanimously rejects Riley Hill’s request for tax exemption on apartments

Pictured are the Mesa Verde apartments, at 1300 N. Pennsylvania Ave. in Fruitland. Property owner Riley Hill’s application for a tax exemption on the property, based on lower rents impacting his ability to pay, was denied Monday by the Payette County Board of Commissioners.

FRUITLAND — A tax exemption application for an apartment building in Fruitland was denied 3-0 by the Payette County Board of Commissioners during its regular meeting on Monday.

The organization name listed on the application, according to Payette County Clerk Betty Dressen, is “Hill, Riley J. Mesa Verde apartments, legal owner; property owner, Riley Hill.”

Riley Hill, who is also the mayor of Ontario, says he filed the application more than a year ago because the Fruitland apartment building does not produce income.

However, the state of Idaho taxes it “like it is an income producing property on the open market, and it isn’t.” Because of this, Hill believes the “property taxes should reflect what the property really produces.”

He went on to say that other states recognize that apartment complexes such as Hill’s, which offer income-based rent for people with low income and disabilities and get financed through the USDA, are not producing revenue.

“Oregon recognizes that, Idaho is not willing to listen,” Hill said.

Mesa Verde apartments qualifies for and receives funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the facility. Hill said he does not think officials in Idaho “understand how the process really works,” adding that as an owner, he only gets a management fee.

Hill believes this “misconception” is why Commissioners Marc Shigeta, Reece Hrizuik and Georgia Hanigan,” all voted to deny the application, Hill said.

Dressen said when commissioners asked whether the property was a section 42, established by the state so that low-income housing projects could be treated differently, they were told it was not. And that is the reason that the application for a tax exemption was denied.

A letter filed with the application explained the basis for the request, Dressen said. It included information about the USDA financing stating that the apartments provide “low income and affordable housing to families and persons with disabilities.”

It further explained that all “the income from the rental disbursements is used for the building and its tenants, and that all land on that parcel is used by the applicant for recreational and social facilities as well as housing.”

Hill backed this up saying that aside from his management fee, other money has to go back into property maintenance, according to the USDA.

An income statement was also attached to the application, Dressen said, in an effort to show the “property has insufficient income to pay their debts, due in part to low occupancy as well as the age of the building causing higher maintenance costs.”

Hill said while he is not behind on any tax payments, the decision by the Board of Commissioners puts him fully back in square one with the only other alternatives for financial relief being “to time consuming” for him to take on.

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