Ex Ada Commissioner Rants

By Sharon Ullman,
Former County Commissioner

Are you miffed about the way Ada County commissioners have handled the EMS situation? How about horse racing, Lariat Productions, and Les Bois Park? Unhappy about how much County property tax you have to pay, commissioners holding illegally closed meetings, or taking trips to Hawaii? If so, mark July 12 on your calendar because that is your opportunity to speak out at the Commissioner’s meeting room in the Courthouse.

In the two years since the current commissioners took office, the tax portion of the County budget has increased more than 16 percent, from $53.9 million to $62.6 million. (You can find the budget online on the Clerk/Auditor/Recorder’s section of the Ada County website.)

Fair admission rates have increased. Development services fees have increased. Weed and pest fees have increased. Landfill fees have increased. Administration fees for the motor vehicle department will increase in October.

Fees at Barber Park have also increased, effectively preventing the lowest income people from using the park but only bringing in a tiny fraction of the $3 million the commissioners are spending on the park over a five-year period.

Why, when the Ada County commissioners are threatening to take ambulances and paramedics off the streets for a lack of money, are they willing to spend $3 million on Barber Park in the first place?!

Since taking office, the three current County commissioners have:

–Spent untold thousands on new furnishings and wallpaper for their offices;
–Spent a half-a-million dollars remodeling the development services department in the new courthouse;
–Spent $78,500 a year on a new P.R. position that they call a “communications coordinator,” a misnomer since the primary purpose of the position seems to be shielding the commissioners from the public;
–Spent over $60,000 a year for an extraneous staff position in their office and added one more unnecessary position, costing taxpayers another $28,000 a year; and,
–Granted themselves $8,000 per year salary increases, bringing each of their annual salaries up to $83,000.

As a commissioner from January 2001 to January 2003, I discovered that the County was collecting about $3 million more than was needed in property taxes per year and a $20 million surplus had accumulated. Six million dollars (not enough) eventually went back to the taxpayers, and the rest went to one-time expenditures. The County has never reduced the property tax levy to stop collecting that extra money each year. Now, instead of saving it up, the commissioners have simply found more ways to spend it.

My commission colleagues and I also negotiated a deal with the state to take over paying for the pre-sentence investigator program, as provided by Idaho law. Like the $3 million annual surpluses, none of the $412,000 the County has saved each year since has ever made its way back into the pockets of the County’s property tax payers.

Ada County has experienced some legitimate increases in expenses, such as staffing the recent jail expansion, but millions of dollars more should be back in the hands of tax payers.

I urge everyone with an opinion about County spending to express it on or before the July 12 budget hearing.

Sharon Ullman
Boise, ID

Ed note–While Ms Ullman is obviously miffed at increased spending, there has been an obvious growth in population, increased property values and available money to spend.

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