The DAILY PAPER had a page one story today about the effort to gain a 2/3 approval of voters for the City of Boise to go into debt for 10 years. The measure previously failed.
The STATESMAN story is fair, well balanced and accurate. It also dwells on the efforts of GUARDIAN editor Dave Frazier to force local governments to play by the rules–something they didn’t do prior to 2004. We don’t know whether to take credit or blame, but Boise City has a record of extravagant requests. Frazier has a record of saving the city millions upon millions of dollars, forcing them to either pay cash or tone down their dream projects.
Through legal court victories we saved citizens about $15 on the police building (City Hall West), as much or more on the airport parking garage, and voters turned down a $38 million debt for a new library in favor of pay-as-you-go projects for three new branch libraries which are very successful.
Regardless of your thoughts on the $17 million bond sales pitch to move fire stations, build new ones, and construct a training facility, its a good thing the bond failed in the past.
Why? Because we minority of voters sent City officials back to the budgeting of OUR money and guess what? They have come up with a lower price tag and a shorter term bond debt. Thanks to a change of the former firemen retirement fund to be included in the state Public Retirement program, much of the revenue to repay the debt will come from within.
While we don’t oppose this bond, we have some concerns about financial issues directly relating to Boise’s fire department:
–Why do we give away hundreds of thousands of dollars in free fire protection to Boise State while charging around $1 million for Boise police at the same institution? BSU and other state agencies have a huge exposure and every taxpayer in the state should pay a tiny bit to protect those assets and people. It shouldn’t rest on the shoulders of Boise taxpayers alone.
–The fire budget has been used for new construction to facilitate growth in South and East suburbs.
–All the departments in the area work together on “mutual aid” agreements (memorandums of understanding). That’s good, but they should also pony up some cash for mutual training facilities. Boise’s claim of allowing the other departments to use the proposed new training facility in exchange for use of their stuff simply falls short.
–Instead of buying new fire equipment, the department is planning to lease trucks. If the leases are true leases, that COULD be OK. However, if they try to disguise long term debt purchases as a “lease,” they could ignite a legal tinderbox.
In summary, they probably need the bond but there never should have been a need for it. Because the council has continued to acquire more area through annexation and city-generated urban sprawl there is increased demand for firefighters, stations, and equipment. We growthophobes feel growth should pay for itself. If they need to go into debt, the City of Boise is living beyond its means.
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