City Government

Fire Dept. Bond & Why 2/3 Majority Is Good

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.
Modern suburban fire station in Boise, Idaho.
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.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Bieter begone
    Oct 13, 2014, 3:16 pm

    Meridian FD has a training facility. Why can’t the two departments get along and boise FD use the meridian facility to train at, thereby saving taxpayers $7 million? That would leave the refurbishing of the fire stations, and those could be done on a yearly cash basis with no bond interest necessary.

    But I guess that would mean someone on the Boise City Council would have to have an independent thought and ask questions.

    EDITOR NOTE–I asked the same question with regard to Meridian. I was told the Meridian facility is not up to current training facility standards. If true, that’s why I find it a joke to “trade” use of a modern facility for an outmoded one. The other departments need to pay their way in U.S. dollars.

  2. The City of Boise just raised property taxes by more than $5 Million but it is never enough for those who just want to build their Kingdoms. IF, and it’s a big IF, we really need a fire training facility, it should be built cooperatively with the County, the other cities, the State and the National Interagency Fire group as a joint use facility paid for by all those agencies NOT funded on the backs of Boise property owners.

  3. Great points, Dave. What I’d also like to know is why the Mayor and City Council have not made these a priority over the last 11 years while they have been in power? If they had it would have cost them $1.7 million per year out of how many hundreds of millions of dollars spent per year?

    And if the Mayor and Council are truly looking out for the best interests of Boise citizens then why haven’t these critical public safety issues been at the top of the budget every year?

  4. Do all fire departments in the valley follow ambulances to homes when one calls for an ambulance or just Boise City? Is the fire departments budget based on responses? Aren’t Ada county paramedics paid and trained for these type of calls? Doesn’t Boise City respond not only to BSU but all Government buildings that don’t pay tax dollars for this service? Let’s not leave out CCDC Structures!

  5. How about a volunteer fire department for all but core players. It is a very successful model in many communities which do not have money to burn… and even in those which do but want to spend it on something more productive.

  6. Kent Hysell
    Nov 4, 2014, 7:36 am

    Maybe this bond would sit better with me if the fire dept hadn’t built 2 houses, one on Cole, one on 5 Mile, that are in my opinion very overbuilt. First, I don’t see why there are 2 fire palaces that close to one another and second, why do these places have to cost SO much to build. Is it really necessary?
    What is the ROI of the fire department? How many houses do they save? How much does it cost to run it for a year? Seems a waste to me I guess.

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