November 2018 Treasure Valley Voters Guide

Welcome to our Voter Guide for the November general election, presented by the Idaho Statesman and the League of Women Voters of Idaho. Compare candidates' views on the issues side by side and create your own ballot, which you can then print or email.

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Ada County Assessor

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    Robert McQuade

Biographical Information

What education and experience do you have to prepare you to be a county assessor?

What would you like to accomplish as a county assessor?

What challenges does the Treasure Valley's current growth pose to your office? How will you solve those?

How do you view the oft-proposed possible full repeal of Idaho's personal property tax?

The value of farmland can vary wildly from county to county. Should it become standardized across some counties?

What will you do as assessor to further the public's access to public information?

What is one thing voters should understand about this office that they perhaps don't?

Age 69
Education BA Economics, George Mason University, VA; Masters in Business Administration, Boise State University
Prior political experience 23 Years Ada County Assessor
Civic involvement Rotary Club of Boise; Idaho Association of Counties; Boise Chamber of Commerce; Idaho Tax Foundation; City Club of Boise, Idaho Museum of Mining and Geology
Years living in Idaho 39 consecutive years
Family Wife Jody; Son & Daughter-In-Law Rob and Melodie McQuade and two grandchildren
Facebook Assessor McQuade
Having an undergraduate degree in economics, an advanced degree in business administration, and having taken additional undergraduate courses in public administration and public policy, I have the requisite knowledge to perform the job of assessor. Combining this with my 24 years’ experience as assessor, I am prepared to continue solving the appraisal, mapping, motor vehicle, and administrative challenges faced daily in the office.

As assessor I have always seen our mission “Superior Public Service” as a journey, not a destination. We pride ourselves in delivering first class service, whether it is a short wait at motor vehicles, an accurate appraisal of residential and commercial properties, or seniors applying for the property tax reduction program. We are constantly striving to deliver the best service at the least cost. As we go about our daily business in the office, we pride ourselves in faithfully following the law and adhering to the highest ethical standards.

When I took office in 1995 we had 24 appraisers assessing 91,000 parcels. Today we have 28 appraisers valuing 200,000 parcels: that is a 120% increase in parcel count with less than a 17% increase in staff. Last year more than 4,000 parcels were created and as many new homes constructed. Each parcel had to be set up, data collected, and an assessment made. It is not only appraisal that has seen growth, motor vehicles has also seen an increase in work. Each family moving into the area means transferring automobile titles and issuing registrations and license plates. In spite of this growth we have managed to maintain wait times under five minutes. We will address the growth as we have in the past: taking advantage of technology to make data collecting quicker and more accurate; examining processes to root out inefficiencies, having strong supervisors who are capable of bringing out the best in the employees, and adding personnel when necessary.
It’s not an understatement to say personal property tax is one of the least desirable taxes. Some personal property escapes taxation due to the fact that property is based on self-reporting. Personal property is difficult to value. And if the taxes are unpaid, the tax may be written off since the property cannot be located. That having been said, I support repeal of Idaho’s tax on personal property with the following conditions: When one type of property, such as commercial personal property, becomes exempt there is a tax shift to other properties. This shift would be mitigated somewhat if the state provided replacement dollars for the newly exempt property. This is especially important to counties who rely heavily on the personal property tax; counties such as those with a significant railroad presence, power generating operation, or a large manufacturing facility. Without replacement dollars the exemption would be disastrous. Also needed would be a clear definition of personal property. Once all personal property becomes exempt, there would be aggressive attempts to declare any and all property as personal property, much of which is today considered taxable real property.
In a state whose physical geography varies greatly, it is reasonable to expect some variation in farmland values because these values depend on soil types, water availability, crop types and property expenses. The tax commission through its rule making process already has a standardized process in place for valuing farmland. And while it is up to each county assessor to determine the value of farmland in their county, the tax commission, with the help of their consulting appraisers, can assist the counties with additional training to ensure the processes are being followed and farmland appraisals are occurring on a regular basis to minimize unwanted variation.
I have always believed that free access to information is critical for transparency and better government. That is why over 15 years ago I saw to it that Ada County was the first county in the state to make access to our mapping and appraisal data easily available through the internet. Currently I am working with our commissioners to further enhance access by removing a fee that no longer is needed. While I champion easy access to the data we collect in the normal course of our work, I also realize that there is a delicate balance between the publics’ access to information while respecting an individual’s expectation to the right of privacy. One way this is managed is limiting the use of data searches on our web site.

The most common public misunderstanding is that the assessor raises values to increase taxes. Any increase in taxes is the result of cities, schools, and other taxing authorities raising their budgets. The levy rate is determined by dividing the budget by the total assessed value within a taxing jurisdiction. The assessor’s function in the property tax system is to allocate the tax burden based upon fairly and equitably assessing taxable property. Along with conflating increasing values with increasing taxes, another common misunderstanding is that the assessor collects taxes. It is the treasurer’s office that sends the tax bills, collects taxes, and distributes them to the appropriate agency.