How To Spend $200 Million

Gotta give the Ada Commishes a little pat on the back for soliciting spending ideas from the public. The intent is great, but the survey falls short.

In a press release today they are seeking some guidance with the nearly $200,000,000 they plan to spend in the coming year. That’s two hundred MILLION in hard earned cash from Ada residents in addition to what the schools, cities, highway district, state of Idaho, and U.S. Government take from us.

County cash comes from a mix of fees and taxes. They claim only 44% of revenues come from property tax…a paltry $88 million.
When it comes to “fees,” they want to charge the City of Boise for some operational expenses for courts. The line of thinking is Boise consumes the vast majority of clerical and record keeping in the Magistrate (traffic) Court. They seem to forget EVERYONE who lives in Boise is an ADA COUNTY resident–most of the county property taxes come from within Boise.

They are offering up a brief survey, but it is aimed at really broad issues such as “excellent public services, public safety and health, regional cooperation, strong economy, effective and efficient judicial system.” ADA BUDGET SURVEY

No mention or examples of cutting wasteful spending, the need for joint facilities so the Assessor can sell both driver licenses and vehicle licenses. Not a word about eliminating the slick color printing for the “annual report,” or the “state of the county” show for the Chamber of Commerce–along with the dues paid for commercial advertising to attract more population to the county (create growth). No talk of a badly needed detox center to cut the growth of jail cells.

We encourage GUARDIAN readers to make your comments on this post. Let them know what you think. Offer up some thoughtful examples of waste, good performance, how to change the system etc. Don’t just bash the Commishes, show them we care and know what’s going on.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. G-Man is right on the shallow survey. Looks like one of those Team Dave things that will justify whatever they want to do.

    Good idea to combine Driver and Auto licenses at a one stop shop.
    There is no LOGICAL reason for the Assessor to sell both in Meridian, but make folks stand in line at the Sheriff after getting auto tags next door.

  2. With the developer overrun (much of which is publicly financed) of the valley and foothills at a virtual standstill the County has run out of new tax based sources of income. The eternal enemy, the City of Boise, is the new target for supercilious user fees aka as double taxation.

  3. So after almost 60 years and four generations in my hometown of Boise, I feel that it about time for me “get the hell out of Dodge.” I know that this area is nice and all places have problems, but I am growing exponentially weary of seeing my little city being destroyed for the thirty pieces of silver everyone appears to be willing to sell out for.

    If Dave (Bieter) were not a homegrown boy I may be able to understand it, but he is…. and so are many other money grubbers who are asking folks to “buy Idaho” or “buy Boise.”
    Obviously, people do not care about the quality of life they are creating for their children and grandchildren…. or even their own old age.

    The problem with moving elsewhere is then I would be to them what the out-of-staters are to me. But I would hope to go where I like the life style and where I do not want to change anything to look like “where I came from”.

  4. Lower our property taxes.
    How about city/count- wide free Wi-fi?
    A de-tox center.

    Fund a position for a GAO type position to ferret out wastefull spending.

    Cameras on traffic lights to catch more red light runners.

    Combine services where it makes sense to reduce traffic.

    Do something that makes sense.

  5. In regards “to “fees,” they want to charge the City of Boise for some operational expenses for courts” I’d have to agree with Dave that that’s double dipping into the taxpayers wallets. The BFD’s proposal to charge rescue victims on the Boise river is another example of double dipping and the most egregious example is from the the county EMS. The EMS is payed for by taxpayers like me year after year but if, god forbid, I actually need the services of a paramedic or ambulance transportation I’ll be charged for it.

    I think that all government services should be paid wholly by taxes or wholly by fees, the intermingling of funds just serves to confuse, and all services for fee should be put out to bid.

  6. This is an incredibly lame survey. One of the options to spend money on is intiatives to provide excellent customer/public service? We have to spend money to get this – we aren’t entitled to it through the payment of taxes? We have to allocate funds for what possible reason? Training in how to answer a phone? Training in how to wait on someone at the DMV? What the heck is this garbage?

    Well, I’m not filling out this travesty of a survey where the answers are all preplanned to spend money. What if I want them not to spend money on something – there isn’t an initiative for that.

    I’ll send them a letter/e-mail with my recommendations one of which will be related to the dump. Why is it that I have to pay $10 now to take greenwaste to the dump which will be chipped up and sold or windrowed and composted for use in the parks? Shouldn’t I be able to take that for free since I’m adding nothing to the usage of the capacity of the dump? And why are there 3 employees hanging around the cashier area chatting people up? Could we not just have 2 chatty cathys and save some money.

    Why do we continually put people in office who have such contempt for the taxpayers? Is there no one who ever takes a stand against spending? Where are the people who feel they have a fiduciary duty to spend the taxpayer’s money wisely?

    This type of stupidity just makes me so mad!!!!! Arghhhh$@#@^#%%@&$*(*(((^%^##@.

  7. The survey has a potential validity issue which I have left feedback on using the very broken feedback form. And then I tried to leave feedback about the feedback form, and even that was challenging.

    Sara, perhaps if I spend $3.50 of my $100 on excellent customer service, can get something elementary like online feedback forms working. 🙂

    More seriously, this process (BFO) could be a good thing. The step we’re seeing here gets people engaged. Most people, although they certainly have pet issues, don’t think in terms of myriad adds or cuts like you all do… only big measurable results like “being safer” or “having better health” or “living in a thriving community.” Assuming we already buy into how much government costs, of course… which I understand is supposed to be the first step of BFO :)… the results of this activity allow more creative folks such as yourself to offer, debate the merits of, and ultimately judge, adds & cuts that achieve the results people want.

    Maybe you want more effective & efficient government… that’s the “Government Efficiency and Financial Stability” bucket, people.

  8. One of the problems with the survey is poor design. Because they ask for dollar amounts rather than a ranking of importance, the results are meaningless. I have no idea how much money a judicial system or public health and safety should cost as a percentage of total budget. And how do you assign a dollar amount to effieciency? And.. the little vision statement thingies are annoying.

  9. Wade, while I think it’s laudable that the County is asking for input, they really aren’t in this case. Instead, this survey appears designed only to provide validation, but for what I don’t know.

    The County is SUPPOSED to provide an effective and efficient Judicial system. That’s a major constitutional provision.

    The County is SUPPOSED to provide public health and safety. That’s another constitutional thingee. In fact, they are trying to lay a lot of those costs on others like Boise and Meridian police. They should be paying for the detox center, yet that is now the purview of Boise City. Why? They just don’t feel like doing their job?

    We should EXPECT the county to have efficiency in government, financial stability (or rather fiscally frugal but that’s not what they mean at all is it?), excellent or rather decent customer service (I’d settle for real people answering the phones instead of circuitous voice answering systems), and cooperation with other jurisdictions in the county and the state.

    We should EXPECT that the county will plan growth and manage our “valuable” resources, which, of course, are unnamed and therefore could be anything to anybody.

    We should EXPECT all these things because that’s what good governance is. It is the details of what makes up these little categories that is important and this survey provides none of those.

    I’m still mad about this. #%&^%$%&&%^&%&*

  10. eric: The survey says “Hypothetical scenario: You have $100 to spend on county government. Tell us how much money you want to spend on each of the following priorities. Your total should add up to $100.” This is typical for Budgeting for Objectives (BFO) because it’s easy for people to do. You can find out more about BFO by searching online; Ada County is not the only organization using this methodology.

    Sara: Of course you expect all those things from government… most people do, which is why they are survey options… but how much do weight (% of your “$100”) do you give to each? That is what the survey is trying to find out.

  11. If Ada County wants to “go provincial” on us Boise folks and make us eat more of the Judicial Pie because it’s ours, that’s fine.

    But just to be fair, I’d suggest our slice of the Sheriff pie is unfairly large. After all, we have our own Boise Police Department that provides the lion’s share of our cop duties.

    And another big chunk of County Money goes for Solid Waste Management. Surely most of that is outside Boise’s city limits.

    I’m all in favor of ANYTHING that can be done, so the USERS of government services are paying for those services, rather than blanketing the expenses over all county taxpayers. That’s called socialism.

    Here are some numbers from the current budget:
    Clerk of the court (the operational expenses?) – $8 million
    Sheriff – $45.8 million
    Solid Waste – $21.6 million

    (Taken from numbers that can be seen at .)

  12. Wade. thanks.

    I understand, but the problem is two-fold.

    1. Some are budget items (public safety and courts) while others are not (excellent public service when dealing with County employees. It’s an apples and oranges thing.

    2. If I recognize that courts and public safety cost a lot more money than teaching people to smile and allot $90 to courts and safety and split the remaining $10 among the rest, does that mean that excellent public service or efficiency are not priorities? Not necessarily. It only recognizes that they can’t be valued in dollars and that they apply across many services. It will be impossible to tell what people intended when they answer the survey.

  13. Wade, the ridiculousness of this survey is this – what if everyone said 0% to the courts and wanted to spend their money elsewhere? Would the County abide by that? Of course not – it’s constitutionally mandated that they provide courts whether the people who answer the survey want them or not.

    That’s why this is simply a validation survey and will provide no real input. There is nothing on this list that the county is not supposed to provide and the language is such that it is nice and happy feeling. Ooh yes, please sirs, give us excellent customer service. So if no one puts that in their “basket” we don’t get good customer service?

    Also the problem with budgeting by objectives is that the details are always overlooked and that is where you can save the most money.

    Why don’t they ask us questions like, should the county support a detox facility? should the county be in the business of parks? should the county develop drug programs to lessen the use of the jail? etc, etc etc.

    I wonder who developed this survey, was it in-house or out, if it was out, how much is it costing us?


  14. The county may of stirred up a hornets nest with this survey. They are taking a page from Team Dave’s play book by using this survey of the citizens. Did Boise’s survey turn up much? This one more than likely won’ t either- hopefully it doesn’t cost us a consultant fee.

    As Bikeboy indicates, relying on user fees to pay for services can be the way to go. The Landfill happens to be one of those. It has projected revenues around $15 million for current budget leaving it short $6 million. I believe some added cost are budgeted for the landfill expansion to continue operating at the Hidden Hollow Complex. If you look at previous years, they have been self sufficient.

  15. curious george
    Apr 22, 2008, 10:30 pm


    The county EMS service is only 30% funded by taxpayer contributions — the remaining 70% comes from the actual users of the service. Well, actually their health insurance company — if they have a policy.

    A year or so ago the county tried to increase the levy rate for EMS service to have taxpayers pay for the whole operation — this would have resulted in an increase of approximately $10 per property owner (yes, it was based off property taxes). The voters (you, me and everyone else) rejected the proposal and kept the existing funding scenario.

    But I agree to the no-no on double-dipping.

  16. Doh! There are 2 pages. I saw the first page, got confused, and then saw the “submit” button at the bottom, and quit without hitting it. Turns out there is a second page.

  17. It is commendable that the County is asking for public input on the budget. It is unfortunate that the FIRST PAGE of the survey is so poorly done, BUT, if you SKIP the first page (just leave zeroes) and hit submit, THEN you will get to a page that has some validity. The County lays out the percentages of the budget that go to each department, and they invite the public to increase or decrease those amounts.

    Several people have already pointed out flaws with the first page of the “survey”. For example, government efficiency and good customer service should not require specific budget allocations. It should be the duty of every county elected official and employee to look for efficiencies and treat customers properly.

    Ada County can cut wasteful spending and save tax dollars by: 1) adopting zero-based budgeting, a system in which justification of every County expenditure is required on a periodic basis, 2) consolidating duplicate services, a proven concept that has been studied repeatedly but never adequately implemented, and, 3) returning to the voters our constitutional right to vote on projects requiring long-term debt.

  18. Love the banter. Does anyone really think they care? Most surveys end up in the circular file and everyone goes away happy thinking they voted.
    That is why they do surveys like this.

  19. I am a simpleton to the n’th degree however can someone explain to me why county government exists? I am a business owner, I pay state fee’s, city fees, and county fees yearly. Why, and where does my money go to?

  20. CURIOUS! How are you?

    I much prefer the idea of a user fee.

    Assuming each department operates within it’s own budget as if it was a completely seperate business entity, who would bail them out when costs can’t be covered? There is no general fund…

    That’s how development services was supposed to operate but it was deep in the red. And with a “bailout” from the BOCC, as well as cutting employee numbers, they can continue to operate during the next year.

    If the BOCC didn’t bailout DSD, they can’t file CH 11.

    Of course, they could continue to cut staff, and that is okay right now since work there is slow (and was slow when I moved along in Dec), especially in the planning department.

    Less employees means the work can get stretched and customer service will suffer.

    Once the housing market picks up, and it will, you have to hire more and it is costly to hire new employees. And then let them go when the cycle hits again. Can’t be for-profit and save for the future…to keep employees during a downturn.

    But the solution would be NO GROWTH, NO DSD. Right?

    I’m just writing down some thoughts, someone please re-direct me. Thanks.

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