The Idaho Constitution and its pesky Article VIII, Sec. 3 has once again caused trouble for the City of Caldwell and its legal staff. The constitution bans obligations, liabilities and debts beyond a single year’s revenues without a vote of citizens.
The reason for the law is to prevent a city council from obligating the budget of a future council without their consent. This could easily be long after those who signed the contract are out of office. Hence, only the PEOPLE can approve multi year deals–usually in the form of bonds.
However, at a recent City Council meeting the city entered into an illegal, unconstitutional 5 year lease agreement with the YMCA. The $1 million annual payment of public money, combined with monthly payments meant to bolster the coffers of the Y at public expense on behalf of Simplot and public employees apparently isn’t enough for the YMCA.
That private club sought monthly payments of $575 from the Caldwell City Rec department to rent a single room for use by the recreation department–something one would think the Y would offer to the community youth since it is supported so predominately by taxes diverted to Urban Renewal. A YMCA spokesman told the GUARDIAN the City pays no money toward the $696,000 annual operation costs–that all comes from the YMCA. The $1 million in Urban Renewal money goes toward the capital expense of the building.
When the Caldwell GUARDIAN inquired of the City about the illegal lease agreement, the City responded saying, “It will be fixed at the next council meeting.” We draw no conclusions with regard to the intent of the city or the expertise of its legal counsel, but citizens deserve better.
No doubt the city will make the deal an annual agreement with renewals over the next five years or just make a lump sum payment out of the current budget. For us the issue is not so much the structure of the deal, but the nature of repeatedly using public funds–whether that of the City or Urban Renewal–for a private club, regardless of how noble the cause.
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