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Boise City Gov’t Awash In Cash

Boise’s City Councilors held the budget hearing last night and it looks like they are awash in cash, thanks to massive growth and a law that allows them to raise the budget 3% per year. With the growth factored in, Boise’s general fund budget will increase 8% for a total of $236,000,000.

They tried to eat up some of the cash by dumping $69,000,000 into the proposed library project which has not bee approved by the citizens, donors or CCDC which have been cited as funding sources

One of the two people who testified against the increases was Bill Goodnight. Here is his take on the budget.

“The budget director pointed out that the City’s almost automatic habit of increasing property taxes the maximum amount allowable by law (3%), plus increased development fees have resulted in embarrassing budget surpluses.

The City will now use more aggressive revenue projections to anticipate overages, budget items in advance to spend them and thereby avoid having to show surpluses while concurrently raising your property taxes.

My interpretation is that the budget is revenue driven, not needs based. The budget goal appears to fill the cookie jar to overflowing and then find ways to spend it.

Budget history and five year projections show the City cosistantly raising property taxes the maximum 3%. Ada County budgeteers, conversely, are reaching back to grab foregone taxes which previous board members declined to levy. We all know we can pay now or pay later, but we sure as hell are going to pay!

The budget presentation and Council comments gleefully pointed out that forgoing the 3% this year would only save the average homeowner $34.

What they didn’t point out is this taxing practice over the past 5 years has cost the average homeowner $170 more in taxes and another $170 in the next 5 years (discounting compounding).

Our city government has demonstrated that they know what’s best and those of you who whine about rising taxes should not waste your time at public hearings.”

See the IDAHO PRESS report by Margaret Carmel for details of the hearing.

Guard Your Wallet While Politicos Seek To Pick Your Pockets

Folks, we gotta do something about the way our politicians are after every dollar we have.

The blame can be spread around equally in Idaho between the city, county, and state electeds. We will attempt to offer some insight with the example of the Ada Commisshes plan to use $3 million in “foregone taxes” in order to add a courtroom and buy land for a jail expansion.

Foregone taxes is sorta like raising the limit on your credit card. “We had a $1,000 limit, but only used $500, so now we can spend $1,500!” In the case of foregone taxes, previous county commishes didn’t spend all they were authorized to spend so the current board under Idaho law can charge us for the taxes the previous board refused to levy. The hearing is 6 p.m. Tuesday (tonight) at the court house.

In Idaho the STATE judicial council appoints judges (who also run mostly unopposed after they are on the bench). These STATE judges serve in a Judicial District where the local COUNTIES provide courtrooms and staff to run the court. Because Ada County is growing so fast, we need an additional courtroom…with staff, video and audio accouterments (“furnishings” for you non-library types) and security. Even though the courts are STATE courts, the COUNTY has to pay. This is known as an “unfunded mandate.” Ada Commishes plan to use “foregone taxes to fund the mandate. Thank the Idaho Legislature for that.

In the case of the claimed need for a jail expansion, one of the big reasons we need more beds in the jail is because we have more than 200 inmates that belong in the State Pen in the custody of the Idaho Dept. of Corrections (IDOC). They cost about $90 a day to keep, but the STATE pays the COUNTY only $55. The rate jumps to $75 a day if they remain in the Ada jail more than seven days. Ada residents subsidize the IDOC between $15 and $30 per day. Thank the legislature for that.

Why so many STATE prisoners in the COUNTY jail? Seems that most of them are parole and probation violators. State law says parole and probation violators who are arrested go to the county jail or back to the state pen. No room at the pen, so its off to Ada county. Thank the legislature for that.

IDOC claims they need half a billion dollars for more prison beds. They have cut a deal with Texas that sounds like something from Amazon Prime. Texas charges only $69.95 a day. That’s $5.05 less than they pay local COUNTY jails in Idaho. IDOC wouldn’t need so many new beds if we didn’t have so many first time drug offenders and the additional felons that come with population increases. Thank the legislature for that.

The sad part of this money grab is the politicos can “truthfully” claim they haven’t increased the tax RATE because the value of real estate has jumped so much. Example: 5% of $100 (property value) is $5. But 5% of $200 value is $10…the RATE remained the same, but the revenue doubled!

UPDATE 7/18/18– At the meeting, Commishes kicked the can down the road with a three way split. Jim Tibbs favored using the foregone authority, Rick Visser opposed, and Dave Case was undecided. Republican candidate Sharon Ullman, who beat Case in the primary election appeared and suggested the funds be taken from within budget. That touched off a verbal exchange with Tibbs who said that would not work.

For a legacy media version see IDAHO PRESS.

Half A Dozen Growth Slowing Ideas

David Klinger

“When the burdens of the presidency seem unusually heavy, I always remind myself it could be worse. I could be a mayor.” — President Lyndon Johnson


A mayorship was once considered America’s second toughest job. Now, with the presidency devalued, it’s probably become No. 1.

It’s a job I don’t know why anyone would want, especially today in Boise. For there’s a “perfect storm” headed our way, triggered by this city’s metastasizing growth and fueled by over-promotion, under-readiness, and a general air of uncertainty about the direction Boise is headed.

Town fathers are quick to claim there’s virtually nothing they can do to control the nature and pace of growth here, almost as if they are innocent by-standers at some horrific auto wreck.

True, growth is largely market-driven. But I think there are lots of steps Boise’s leaders could initiate immediately to ensure citizens a more predictable future. Some are easy, some hard. This overheated local economy calls for a dose of well-timed modulation from the drivers with their feet on the community accelerator.

First, end the self-promotion. Boise’s growth will occur organically. It doesn’t need Chamber of Commerce boosterism anymore to bolster in-migration. The era of trade shows and glitzy, coffee table magazines touting Boise as a destination city should end.

Second, admit Boise’s growth isn’t benefiting everyone. The booming growth industry’s “rising tide” isn’t lifting all boats. Developers and land speculators reap record profits, a city government nets $1 million in additional permit fees, while millennials struggle for their first home, working-class folks scrounge for affordable apartments, the homeless proliferate on every street corner. (There’s coincidentally a moral component for Boise’s faith community in this growth dilemma.)

Third, stop framing the debate as “sprawl vs. density.” Growth’s far more complicated and nuanced than a Faustian, “one-size-or-the-other” choice. To become a great city, Boise doesn’t need to sprawl like Phoenix, nor to soar like Manhattan. The key is careful, modulated, appropriately-sited growth.

Fourth, settle these differences among local governments. A city that doesn’t manage its own arteries will never control its own growth. A highway bureaucracy perpetuating the outdated “pave-and-widen“ approach ignores the reality that bigger roads simply beget more traffic. A hidebound and heavy-thumbed state Legislature continues to stifle the taxing ability of its stressed municipalities. Average Boiseans understand all too well that our governmental oxen aren’t all pulling in the same direction.

Fifth, update zoning rules and regulations to reflect current realities. From an outdated comprehensive plan to antiquated zoning codes to simple, public notification courtesies like posted signage, Boise’s “grasp” has failed to keep pace with its “reach” in our development drama. We cannot aspire to 21st century greatness as a city under Mayberry-era rules.

Lastly, let’s finally retire the “America’s Most Livable City” slogan. It’s served us well, but now promises to create the sort of nightmare that threatens the very quality of life we profess to value.

David Klinger is a Boisean and sometime community activist. This piece also appeared in the Idaho Statesman

Open Space Advocate On Bike Park Decision

Katie Fite
Public Lands Director
WildLands Defense

The Boise City Planning and Zoning Commission failed to uphold two separate Appeals of permits for Hillside Grading and Flood Plain development to allow construction of a two million dollar Mountain Bike Park in Military Reserve. The Albertson’s Family Foundation would pay for construction, taxpayers for a new Dog Park, bathroom and maintenance. The Foundation wanted the deal kept secret, and City leaders obliged – placing it on a consent agenda at a March 13, 2018 Council meeting. Neighboring property owners were never notified.

The East End Neighborhood Association filed an Appeal of the permits because of the lack of public process and permit deficiencies. The East End knows something about process failures and having officials ignore public concerns. The St. Luke’s expansion cut off their neighborhood from downtown, and created a traffic nightmare which Bike Park traffic would make worse.

An Appeal by conservation groups (WildLands Defense, Friends of Military Reserve and Great Old Broads for Wilderness) highlighted the natural, historical and aesthetic values of Boise’s first Open Space Reserve, the lack of public process in determining the location and development of a Bike Park, and the failure to consider the conflicts and public safety risks associated with putting a Bike Park in a Flood Basin. The Basins were built for public safety in the very erodible and flood prone Cottonwood Creek watershed in response to past severe flood events. 
Continue reading here…

ACHD Votes To Increase Fees On Cars, But Not Trucks

Ada County Highway District Commishes voted Wednesday 3-2 in favor of placing an open ended fee hike proposal on the November ballot which exempts vehicles over 8,000 lbs. from ANY local fees while placing the entire burden on automobile owners.

Commishes Jim Hansen and Kent Goldthorp opposed the measure while Sara Baker, Rebecca Arnold and Paul Woods voted in favor despite hearing repeated testimony from citizens seeking either a two year “sunset” limit or simply not passing the unequal fee hike at all.

The measure seeks to raise Ada County’s maximum vehicle registration fee from $40 to $70.

Ada County State Rep. John Gannon appeared to present his draft legislation and seek some sort of agreement to keep from placing the financial burden on the hood of auto owners and not share it with vehicles in excess of 8,000 lbs. In a letter to the commissioners, Gannon had suggested fees on commercial trucks be 10% of the state fee or capped at $70.

There were several pleas among folks seeking to distribute any fee hikes among safe routes, bicycles, and public transit. Most citizens acknowledged the issue of crowded streets is the product of state and local government-encouraged growth and not the fault of ACHD.

Look for a major battle in coming months between advocates and opponents of growth over this one.

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