ACHD Candidate Critical Of Budget

We are probably opening the proverbial Pandora’s box, but the GUARDIAN will offer reasonable space to candidates for local offices between now and election day. The comments will be posted as they come in with minimal editing. We are imposing a “reasonable length” guideline.

By Sara Baker,
Dist. 5 ACHD Candidate

Citizens should be disheartened that the ACHD budget process was not transparent. It is impossible to make the transition from the FY 2008 actual numbers to the proposed numbers presented for the FY2009 budget and be able to compare the two. As Abraham Lincoln said, “that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.” Quite frankly, if the people cannot read and follow government documents easily, then Lincoln’s statement is meaningless and we are no longer government of, by or for the people.

But there are some conclusions one can make nonetheless.

First, while it is laudable that ACHD Commissioners are allowing positions to go unfilled and they plan to add no new positions in this economic downturn, the cost for labor is still very high. If ACHD’s proposed revenues are down 5%, it would seem prudent to reduce this portion of the budget by a corresponding 5%, at the very least. Personnel is becoming an increasing share of the budget going from 21.1% of expenses in 2007 to 24.4% two short years later. While the cost of labor in the 2009 budget is down .9%, the labor budget will increase a whopping 13.5% over the actual costs of labor just 2 years ago.

ACHD’s CIP budget is down and yet they are devoting over 11% of that to legal fees associated with the Maple Grove Extension. Would it not make more fiscal sense for ACHD to try to come to an amicable settlement with Settler’s Canal? At the end of this project ACHD will have spent around $8 million to build the road and almost half again that amount to sue another government agency using taxpayer dollars for both sides of the litigation.

While it is true that the costs of materials, such as liquid tar, is climbing, it makes no sense to then cut the budget for materials which ACHD is proposing to do by 9%. If the cost of materials is rising and the budget is shrinking, the maintenance of the taxpayers’ assets will suffer. Again, if the personnel costs are cut, particularly in administration, AHCD could fund more maintenance. If ACHD doesn’t deal with maintenance in a timely manner, they are just setting up major costs for we the taxpayers down the road.

Operational overhead is increasing by 6%. While it makes sense to anticipate higher utility costs, agency support (whatever this is) is proposed to increase over 31% from two years ago and advertising is proposed to go up 37%. It is hard to believe that the costs for these items have escalated this much. It is more likely they are being overestimated.

An examination of the annual reports shows that ACHD’s cost per lane mile has increased 74.4% over the10 years from 1997 to 2007. While this might seem reasonable, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has increased 19.97% during that same period. ACHD’s cost per lane mile has thus exceeded the CPI four fold. This cost per lane mile does not include any of the capital projects, which might reflect increases in steel, concrete, etc.

ACHD’s budget should be much more conservative particularly since the average resident of Ada County has to tighten their spending. Every tax dollar entrusted to ACHD must be spent carefully and with a clear recognition that it is not ACHD’s dollar – it is the taxpayer’s. It’s unfortunate that ACHD did not keep that in mind while putting the FY2009 budget together.

For more information see or call Sara at 377-2416.
To see video of the budget meeting where Baker testified see video of this ACHD meeting

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Tom Anderson
    Sep 10, 2008, 6:11 pm

    Ummm…. I think we ceased being a government of the people quite some time ago.

    I would define America as a government for, by and of the big campaign contributer. The corporate media also do their part as well, don’t forget them.

  2. On a filter down level of corruption, I would agree. However, at the local and especially at the commission type jobs,I believe there is a genuine desire to serve. Of course there are exceptions, but how much can a candidate be “ego driven” on the ACHD? Ideally, there will be 1/2 of the citizens angry with you all the time. Not a good atmosphere for a fun trip to WINCO or a restaurant. I will be very interested to see the candidate’s position on issues other than the budget. We have an opportunity to change the direction of “growth at any cost” mentality,and we better take advantage of the opportunity.

  3. Public budget hearings are like getting the chapter titles in a very large book. They tell you the totals dedicated to a particular account heading. You want the “detail” under each heading.

    All you have to do is file a freedom of information request and ask to see the “detail” under each heading. Most public agencies are happy to comply with this request. If not, then the issue of transpanrency gets called into question.

    The other request you may want to make is for the auditor report of the public entity.

    Lastly, put a dollar limit on how much you are willing to pay for copies. You will get charged about $0.10/page for copies.

  4. Transparency
    Sep 12, 2008, 8:42 am

    Paul brings up a good point. Many (most?) politicians like to keep things as secret as possible. One way they do it is by requiring a FOIA request for all but the most mundane data, and charging copying costs.

    To get enough budgetary detail necessary to learn much, people risk getting stung with outrageous copying bills. For many people, this is a deterrent to getting the information they need to ask meaningful questions of their elected leaders.

    Worse, the whole concept of dispensing government information via hard copy is outdated. There is no need for copying fees. All the records are kept electronically and dispensing them should be done electronically. The various agencies should be required to post the detailed data on their web sites. Let people download the files and print the pages they need if they really need a hard copy.

    It is an election year. Is it too much to hope that some of the candidates will pick up on this idea?

  5. I don’t remember Ms. Baker as being much of a budget cutter when she was on the City Council

  6. Actually erico49, I was the only Council Member to ever propose budget cuts.

  7. costaprettypenny
    Sep 16, 2008, 9:11 am

    If memory serves, wasn’t this the same Sara that was on the Boise City Council (along with Mr Coles) who insisted the Curtis Road only be one lane each direction? That ACHD (the public) had to finally fix to the tune of a miliion extra bucks along with an additional year of construction delays!

    Also, isn’t this the same Sara that was against the Ustic Road project?

    Whew, can we really afford this kind of thinking?

  8. Yep costa, that’s the same Sara.

    We went along with ACHD’s and Compass’ (or maybe it was Ada Planning at that time) numbers on the Curtis Rd model and ACHD’s idea to make it 3 lanes then 5. Our mistake for agreeing with the “experts”. And it was ACHD’s decision after all.

    Regarding Ustick, I was against it and I would do it again. Also against it were the City of Boise, 2 neighborhood associations, hundreds of property owners, and thousands of residents in the area. Ustick didn’t just costa pretty penny, the 2 miles of five lane road blasted through existing neighborhoods cost $20 million if you include engineering, ROW, construction and all the “communications” work. And let’s not forget that this 2 miles is just a sausage, since at one end it goes down to 3 lanes and at the other it goes down to 2 lanes.

  9. Yossarian_22
    Sep 21, 2008, 11:03 am

    I think Ms. Baker is a bit out of touch with just what kind of costs ALL highway agencies are facing. If she asked an ACHD M&O employee (as I have) about, for instance, the rising cost of concrete, she would have been told that it was $45 a yard in 2006 and jumped to $100 a yard in 2007! Add to that the cost of gas & oil which are staple elements of road building. Her CPI vs ACHD per lane mile comparisons are bogus.

    Pretty soon, highway agencies are going to go into the dumper without new funding mechanisms and peak oil is going to make that VERY difficult, if not impossible.

  10. Remember _ differently
    Sep 22, 2008, 5:02 pm

    If this is the same Sara Baker then she should remember that ACHD presented on 3 different occasions to Ada Planning Association the plan to widen Curtis Road to 5 and told Boise City that 3 lanes weren’t enough. Only Sherry Huber and two others voted against the 3 lanes. SARA BAKER and Mayor COLES INSISTED that it be 3 lanes much to the “experts” at ACHD disapproval because Sara and Brent weren’t willing to “go against” the neighborhood. When the road opened it was ACHD who collected the numbers and took them back to the BOISE CITY COUNCIL within two months and begged them to change their minds. They even asked them since they were responsible for the 3 lane decision to pay for the difference to fix it and were told “NO” by Sara Baker in no uncertain terms.

  11. Remember _ differently
    Sep 22, 2008, 5:07 pm

    Also, this is the same Sara Baker who lives on Ustick and whose bushes were in the public right of way for years and was using public land as her own before ACHD widened the road for the public and its safety.
    You’re right she didn’t use public funds wisely when she was in office and no doubt wouldn’t if she were elected again.

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