Meridian Bond Will Fund Growth

On May 15 we Meridian School District voters are being asked to to help out our friends the developers.

There are just too many homes (full of kids) and not
enough schools for the third year in a row. The District blames the State for not providing enough funds to meet the growth.

So, to meet their goals they are asking us to pony up a $30 million dollar bond to build four new schools, purchase twenty school buses and other items essential to the education of the children.

New schools will be built right in the middle of new subdivisions–full of kids– and
older schools are cast to the back of the line for funds. A little known fact is that Lake Hazel Elementary is still on septic and the system has failed in the past two years. Past bonds didn’t fix the problem–that money went to growth.

Meridian’s City Council has taken initial steps to charge higher impact fees for roads
that facilitate growth. Schools need the same authority. We should not be forced to subsidize the development community. We can take little comfort knowing the Zone 2 representative is a real estate agent.

It is time to send a message to the District and the developers that we will no longer use our tax funds to promote unsustainable growth.

This will force the District to approach the State for available “emergency” funds. Many doubt it’s an emergency however when a developer needs a school in his subdivision to make the homes more appealing.

Defeat of this bond and the resulting short term pain should promote long
term gain when it comes to funding overcrowding in our schools to satisfy the greed of developers.

After they vote May 15, Meridian voters will turn around and vote the next Tuesday, May 22, with their neighbors in Ada and Canyon Counties on the Community College proposal.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. As a voter in the district I am a little disturbed by the fact that there has been little to no publicity on this election. The first I heard of it was in the Statesman earlier this week. Since the election is on May 15 (of course the Community college election is one week later) this is fairly short notice. I’m sure the district has had this in the works for quite a while. Perhaps they have informed people through the schools and if that is the case this continues a very troubling and nontransparent trend. That is these taxing districts market the bond elections to those they feel will support them while ignoring and seemingly keeping information from the general electorate.

    The City of Boise did this with the Library bonds, the school districts always do this, GBAD did it with the proposed new convention center. I suppose doing it this way might increase their chances for success (though not really if you look at history) however, it does seem undemocratic and I think shows the paucity of their arguments.

  2. Voting for the last school bond was so much fun we can continue to do it year after year. M3, the behemoth developer our of Arizona, that Eagle is wooing to build in the foothills, will provide land for FOUR–yes 4–schools that they’ll expect Meridian School District to build, and Dry Creek Ranch has proposed TWO elementaries, and one combined Middle & High School. Again, they’ll provide the land, but taxpayers must pay for the buildings. One guess as to who gets to pay for it. (Hint: Dry Creek Ranch is in the Meridian School District.)

    EDITOR NOTE–Staff costs much more than the buildings.

  3. Mike: You’ve captured the situation precisely. You’re right–time to send the message. And one additional point: the second levy (to actually build new schools as opposed to supplement existing curriculum) is $20 million for ten years…as in $20 million for each year of the next decade.

    Sleuth: M3 proposal is 9 schools (down from 13 when their proposal was at 12,000 units).

  4. Mike, I agree, there should be impact fees for schools. I have to wonder, however, how come they don’t have enough money to fix the older schools?

  5. I feel complete empathy with your dilemma. One of OUR local school administrators even testified in favor of a new development that will probably DOUBLE the number of the district’s students. He did so at a little publicized hearing to allow “conditional use” (NOT REZONE)of the ag land that his fraternity brother’s LLC is “developing.”

    It is past time that developers and new residents, via realistic impact fees ala California’s examples, pick up at least MOST of the costs they impose on us.

    Just wait and see how much deeper our pockets will be if the Community College scam passes. We, the people, should tell “Them” NO!! EVERY time they ask until they place the financial burdens where they belong.

    Mike, Sara, let it pass and see if you get a mass mailing saying thank you- – – we in Melba’s district did.

  6. It angers me that the two elections aren’t on the same day.

  7. I suspect one reason the Meridian School District has been successful in passing its bonds in the recent past is because the tax levi rate does not change while still being able to provide the ability to add additional schools.

    Because the over all value of property in the district continues to rise (caused primarily by the growing number of houses and commercial buildings being added to the tax rolls), there are more resources contributing to the payment of the district’s bond payments, so to some extent growth actually IS helping to pay for the bonds).

    In addition, the fact that past bonds are also being paid off and disappearing from tax payments allows passage of a new bond to take place without increasing the existing level of the tax levy. I’d also question the claim that failing to build new schools somehow saves money — particularly when double shifting of existing schools (as has taken place in Meridian in the past to deal with growth, by the way) still requires double staffing and double bussing and double utilities, particularly operating lights and heat/air in the mornings and evenings when they’d otherwise be shut down.

    Finally, in response to the lack of info mentioned by Sara, I did get a direct mail district newsletter with information in it about two weeks ago that I assume was mailed to all residents of the school district (judging from the address label). Perhaps Sara doesn’t live in the district or wasn’t interested in reading the newsletter when it arrived from the district.

  8. My dear Stephen, I do live in the district. Both my children attended Meridian Schools. Both have long since graduated. I did not receive anything from the Meridian schools. Had that happened, I would have most assuredly read the info. I have been voting on Meridian School District bonds for what seems like forever. I don’t think transparency is too much to ask for but perhaps that is naive.

  9. Any one on this board want to take odds on the outcome of this election?

    Teachers vote, teacher’s aides vote, the Meridian School district adm. votes, scared parents vote, future teachers vote, devolopers vote… and the rest of the taxpayers don’t even know about the election..

    Hope you enjoy your next year’s tax bill, all of you Meridian folks.

  10. It is time to make the developers (who profit mightily) pay for schools, and to staff them with user fees. Taxpayers would continue to pay for the first two children in a family, any more and the family would have to pony up tuition.

  11. I have never received a flyer or brochure, and called to ask about one last Friday and was told they would get back to me on it (they never did). There is no mention of the election that I can find on the School District website. If it wasn’t for the work of the reporter for the Statesman — Bill Roberts — there would be no real notice of this election.

    Many many residents of Eagle and Star are not aware that the “Meridian” school district is their district. Most notice only goes to parents of children attending school in the district. I asked the district about mailing out notices, and was told that this would be “too expensive.” I asked how much that would cost and was told they would “get back to me.”

  12. One thing to keep in mind is that they may even have an “open house” on the day of the vote AT THE POLLING PLACE! If anyone receives a note from the school of this, it should be addressed at the next School Board meeting on May 8th (you can also meet Mike, your real estate friend from Zone 2).

    I believe this to be an unethical tactic. Parents show up to see how little Cali is doing in her new school and are informed that there is a vote to make her learn even more quicklyer and much more bestest.

    You would also be a fool to believe that growth is even paying a portion of itself. The House has implemented the full “smoke and mirrors” routine when it comes to school bonds. How can taxes levied without the homeowners exemtion in place and the home appraised at “market value” for purpose of school bonds mean that growth is paying for itself?

  13. My father so believed in the public school system that he was proud never to have voted against a school bond.

    I used to share his opinion and even though I haven’t had a family member in school in the Treasure Valley for more than 25 years I have always voted for bonds. I have changed my mind on this. Let the developers build the schools and we taxpayers can take care of maintenance with our tax money. At the very least perhaps fewer homes will be built.

    Why don’t our leaders focus on quality of life for this valley and quit acting like growth is a gift from heaven? They may call this growth but it looks more like cancer to me.

  14. I don’t think that anyone’s blanket statement of “growth should pay for itself,” is applicable in this situation.

    Should a four hundred acre subdivision be forced to donate land and pay for the school to be built…….even if it is a retirement community?

    Should an infill subdivision of only five or ten acres be forced to donate land and pay for the school to be built? Is it fair for the first subdivision built to have to put in the entire infrastructure, while the others benefit from it later down the road? This is why the government, not the private sector, is in charge of paying for and building schools.

    Granted most developments get benefits for donating land, but free dirt and a few more homes sure beats what the school district would have to pay to acquire the ground then build the school.

    I also do not agree with the statement, “We should not be forced to subsidize the development community.” I believe the development community has subsidized the cities and counties with the entire infrastructure they have put in that they are not getting any return on.

    Take for example the City of Eagle. They want their own water company for God knows why, they are a City not a water company. So naturally if they want the revenue for their own water company who do you think is going to lay on the groundwork and pay for the entire new infrastructure? It will be the development community of course, but do you think they will absorb that cost or pass it on to you and me.

    Everything that a city or county requires a subdivision to do only gets passed on to you and me, therefore the next article you will be writing about will be the outrageous lot prices in Ada County. Except now you will only have yourself to thank for that one.

    EDITOR NOTE–Snoop, no one is asking for a particular subdivision to build a school. They are asking for IMPACT fees–one time fees to pay for specific services or infrastructure.

    While the prices for lots will indeed go up, costs will be passed along to the BUYER, not you and me as you assert. You and I pay under the current system to take care of the growth. Those California and Arizona developers come here because it costs so much to build in their home states due to impact fees.

  15. Mr. Guardian..your statement…

    “EDITOR NOTE–Snoop, no one is asking for a particular subdivision to build a school. They are asking for IMPACT fees–one time fees to pay for specific services or infrastructure.

    While the prices for lots will indeed go up, costs will be passed along to the BUYER, not you and me as you assert. You and I pay under the current system to take care of the growth. Those California and Arizona developers come here because it costs so much to build in their home states due to impact fees.”

    Are you being a little naive here… Your city, and county goverments are professionals at wasting money…. and they would have a bond election any way, because they don’t have enough money


  16. Snoop- One thing you have neglected to consider is the fact that the homes on the lots that require a new school right in the middle of them are speculation homes (spec homes).

    I would like to see the statistics on the amount of owner/builders that aren’t of a major LLC development company that have purchased single lots to build a truly custom home for an individual that has paid them to do so.

    Also, Eagle would be making an investment into a water system. Future revenue and the control (or lack there of) of growth is a stake with water rights. You may not be aware, but this is a desert and only so much is available from the river and Snake River aquifer. Water rights (including irrigation shares) will be the next major battle between the municipalities. Control water and you control growth. Control growth and you have unlimited tax base.

    When control of services controls future tax base, cities will gladly “help” run services to (not through) subdivisions. Do you really think that when a sewer line is ran to a subdivision nine miles outside of City limits and envelopes older homes, that the developer is paying?

    There is plenty of good reading on Urban Sprawl. I suggest that you educate yourself and immerse yourself in the best example of Sprawl I’ve seen since Pheonix.

  17. Luddite- One thing you have neglected to research on your own is that when that sewer line is run to a new sub nine miles down the road and, yes some older homes may get to hook up to that line, the developer pays every dime for that line. If, and I strongly use that word, if they do get some sort of compensation they get it in the way of sewer hook up fees which isn’t even a tenth of a tenth of what that sewer line cost. Do you really think the city is paying for that line? You may want to keep reading those books on urban sprawl and get some better information.

    Also it doesn’t matter if a home is a spec home or a custom built home; people still live in them just the same. I think you are speculating too much on a spec home. That may have been true a couple of years ago, but not currently. And how would a developer even have a clue how the market will absorb its lots when most projects take at least two years from design time to build time?

    I truly believe that if the private sector did get involved with the necessary infrastructure, that the cost would be about half of what the government pays and get done in half the time, but ACHD is the only jurisdiction I have heard of in this area that actually takes that notion serious. Why does a school need to be redesigned every time one is built? Why can’t they use one plan and build it fifty times? Why do we have older schools that enrollment goes down every year, Cole Elementary, and combine them with another school? Why not sell the Cole building and then come to the taxpayers on the remaining balance. I think you have to look at how the money is being handled first before you look at how much is needed. Porcupine got it right when he said that city and county are great at wasting money. That is the first real problem. Then you can blame growth after that.

    There are only a handful of development companies from out of state and you are classifying the whole industry by the few projects they presented and I don’t think that is very objective. There are a lot of in state and out of state individuals and companies doing a great job with growth, but I see no mention of them. Again you are quick to complain, but have no REAL solution to the problem.

  18. Snoop, you’re living in a dream world about ACHD. They have impact fees and still can’t make ends meet. In fact I believe they’ve increased their staffing so they don’t have to bid to the private sector on everything.

    Also, I think that the schools do have one plan that they use for every school, obviously, it would be one for elementary, middle and high school, although they probably tweak them for the configuration of the space. And Cole is being sold, however, there is a deed restriction on it. But also Cole is in the Boise District, which is has declining enrollments. Meridian District has skyrocketing enrollments and is the biggest in the State now, but gets less than the average from the State.

  19. Early dredge miners to Idaho destroyed the creek beds, took their profits, and moved on to a new project, leaving their damaging impact for ‘the locals’ to adjust to. When will citizens realize that contractors are no different??? ‘Pay as you go’ !! PAY !!-then go !!!

  20. Interesting that the cities are being blamed so often for not collecting impact fees to pay for services when the real culprit for the situation in most instances is further up the ladder — at the Legislature where such fees have been outlawed for the most part. (There are some allowed, such as for parks, but such collections for most major infrastructure is banned by state law).

    An example: I recall that about 20 years ago the City of Eagle proposed an ordinance that would collect a fee for each additional bedroom (beyond one) in a home with the intent of using it to build new or add onto the existing schools. The thought was that homes seeking additional bedrooms were likely to have additional children to educate.

    When they found that effort would be counter to a law banning one taxing entity to collect money and give it to another (like from Eagle to the Meridian School District), the city proposed building a school needed for the future and lease it back to the school district. In that case too (collecting a fee to build a facility to lease to the school district) the Attorney General ruled that proposal was also against the law (and perhaps unconstitutional). Interesting that The Statesman made a big deal out of the proposed effort by Eagle at the time to commit an “illegal act” because it would have “hurt” development by raising the price of houses. Too bad the paper, and others, didn’t instead scream about the need to allow such collections to take place. If they had, perhaps the infrastructure needs wouldn’t be going further and further into the crapper.

    After that try, Eagle looked at a couple of other possibilities as ways to collect funds from developers, but in each case the city was told by the state they could not do so because of state law. Impact fees won’t handle everything (such as with ACHD), but things could actually be a whole lot worse if they weren’t allowed on the limited basis they are today. Maybe pressure ought to be put on the State to fix things, not necessarily on the locals.

    EDITOR NOTE–Good points. We need to find some recent examples of the Association of Idaho Cities and perhaps the Boise lobbyist pushing for reforms you mention, apart from local option taxes on the masses.

  21. It’s time to start talking again about how to get more bang for our education bucks. For example, “year-round” school schedules stagger the dates that each class attends school, thereby allowing 25 percent more students to use the same facility.

    The charter schools in the Meridian School District have cost far less, on a per student basis, for facilities as well.

    On June 30, 2005, at the end of the 2005 fiscal year, the State of Idaho had $214 million left unspent. At the end of the 2006 fiscal year, the State had $309 million. These big surpluses were largely due to growth. We all want growth to pay for itself but the money is going to the wrong level of government. It is not necessary to extract more new taxes and fees from anyone, but rather to get the Idaho Legislature to redirect the money growth is already generating back to the local government entities that provide the infrastructure to serve that growth.

    Large projects that are far removed from available infrastructure, such as distant planned communities, are an exception. In these cases, requiring the developers to pay the added costs of service to provide the necessary infrastructure (roads, schools, fire, emergency medical services, etc.) should be required.

  22. For once I agree with Sharon here. We need to look at management as the first real problem.

  23. Snoop- It sounds like you work for the City and know what the developers pay? I bet you wouldn’t know that someone that I’m close to works for the City and knows that the City administors and pays for the trunk lines. The sewer connection fees that older homes pay go directly to the City (and means annexation). So I guess the answer to your challenge is; Yes, I do believe (and know) the City pays for the sewer trunk lines. Developers pay to run it through their subdivisions. In normal growth extensions would be through LIDs and paid for.

    My solulotion is in line with Mike’s article, to vote down the bond and make the problems of the rampant growth come to the surface. Do you really think the major LLC developers, Ada county and the City of Boise give a rip about our children’s education? Or are they stacking and packing the impact area as much as they can until the quality of life is in the bucket and nobody wants to live here?

  24. Back in the 70’s in Washington State the people were tired of passing school bonda and failed them 3 times before the state said that if they didn’t pass the next one that the state would decertify the schools. The next one passed.

    In California they don’t have school bonds. Instead some cities require that the developer build schools in some of the developmemts. They also place a room fee on new building permits for homes to help support the schools.

    About a year or two ago didn’t the Idaho supreme court say that the school bond elections were unconstitutional?

  25. I got lost on who said what, but the problem needs to be fixed higher up AKA the part-time legislature. Impact fees are a great way to pay for new school facilities and maybe a local improvement district would work in conjunction with development requirements for the larger planned communities. Both of these options will get developer support as it won’t cost them a nickel.

  26. Clippityclop
    May 2, 2007, 9:38 am

    As per usual, you miss the point. Growth needs to pay for itself, which means developers need to pay lots of nickels and be realistic about the impacts of their projects. Local improvement district bonds only shift the ultimate cost to the entire taxpayer base if the developer goes belly up or blows town. Bad precedent and bad policy. We don’t need to be subsidizing speculation.

  27. Clippity, Many times the developers payday doesn’t come until the project is completed, and impact fees don’t get collected until after the final sale.

    LID’s can work successfully and its merits are debatable both good and bad. The “greater good” should be looked at and which way will pay for growth ahead of time. The developer could go belly up before the final sales, but what if they didn’t. Those homes would be paying for the growth related improvements(schools, roads, etc..) already in place and not costing the taxpayers a dime. Sounds better than the current plan where taxpayers are sacked with the burden no matter what.

    EDITOR NOTE–The down side of the LID as proposed by the developer is that it simply ENABLES and promotes growth. A developer who doesn’t have the money gets it in the form bonds on future construction/lots. The impact fees have nothing to do with the developer’s obligation within a sudivision. I think you guys are talking two different things here.

    IMPACT fees are just that–fees to offset the impact of a dvelopment. LIDS as proposed by developers relieve the developer of building full sized roads, sewers, and water PRIOR to selling houses. They want to put FUTURE liens on houses they may sell. Risky for the rest of us.

  28. I hate to break it to you, but if you don’t pass the bond, and IF (a big, almost impossible, IF) the state legislature provides the impact fee authority for schools, you are still in the same place you are today.

    The impact fee statute is very tightly written to only allow the fees to pay for new infrastructure, it cannot pay to improve current infrastructure (ie. the bond doesn’t pass, schools continue to be overcrowded, and there is no way to solve the current problem thru impact fees). So, the new impact fee authority you desire would cover the future growth, but not what Meridian is experiencing at this minute.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Stephen that changes need to be made to the impact fee statute, but trust me, it will not happen, unless there is a change in the make up of the state legislature. Have you talked with your legislators yet?

  29. Clippityclop
    May 2, 2007, 4:26 pm

    Thanks for the clarification, Guardian. I am nipping the promotion of LIDs, not impact fees, because I think they are highly risky for the reasons listed above. If a developer doesn’t have the horsepower to provide infrastructure upfront, then it’s not our responsibilty to ensure his payday or back his gamble.

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