Schools Suffer, Taxpayers Forced To Subsidize Developers

Recent events in Ada County serve to illustrate the plight of Idaho school districts and taxpayers who are forced to subsidize developers who suck money from the community, thanks to politicos who are blinded by promises of growth and jobs. PROGRESS!

Aerial view of Eagle High School file shot. Note the bare ground in top right where developer built structures. Cost of the construction was shared by all taxpayers, but developers paid no impact fees.

West Ada Schools, like all school districts, are prohibited by law from charging “impact fees” for growth–developments. So, when the Ada County Commishes approved 1,300 new residences in the Dry Creek area a new elementary school worth an estimated $14,000,000 to take care of about 600 kids will eventually have to be built.

The only way to finance school construction is through bond financing which will be paid by every property owner in the West Ada district. The developer may donate a parcel of farm land, but he won’t have to pay for the construction at all.

Then there is the City of Meridian crowing about “attracting” a new business which will supposedly hire 500 workers to staff a new five-story building to be constructed near the Ten-mile interchange of I-84. Sounds good on the surface until you learn the building will be in a “business park” which is part of a “urban renewal district” (read that as FARM LAND).

All the taxes on the new building will go to the urban renewal agency and NONE will go the schools. Of course those 500 workers will generate kids who will have to go to a school which will be overcrowded or built anew. Taxpayers once again subsidize the developer.

But wait, there’s more! The State of Idaho Department of Commerce and Development will tender $5.9 million to the new company as a thank-you gesture for bringing the workers and their kids, there cars, and other pollutants to the area.

Growthophobes and doctors both understand that growth for the sake of growth is called CANCER and it can sometimes be deadly.

As one school official confided, “There’s no end in sight.”

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Hmmmm….at least you acknowledge that schools have no choice. Whitter in Boise is much the same problem with the 30th Street URD. Impact fees for schools should be a no brainer even for a rural Republican legislature. School funding reform maybe needs to start with a referendum…school district large and small are having problems. Look at Salmon School district and their failure to pass a bond to repair to repair the middle school roofs.

  2. There seems to be no end to our leaders wanting growth in our valley. What I would like to know is WHY? Who actually benefits besides developers? What gain are these “leaders: getting? I don’t get it.

  3. Brian Vermilion
    Feb 24, 2017, 5:02 am

    The problem is nobody cares. They numbly sit in front of their boob tubes and allow themselves to be indoctrinated, programmed and brainwashed into thinking all is well because of “progress”.

  4. Brian is right
    Feb 24, 2017, 9:57 am

    Brian is right. Today’s taxpayers are easy pickings. I’m so tired of being bullied for trying to teach the stupid masses a few basics of life that I’m going to join in the harvest. ‘F’ em all! Fools.

    A bonus is the product of public schools is so so bad they will fill the need for uneducated masses of dopes to work in Trump’s factories.

  5. You would think this is Nigeria where developers and others have learned to tap into the never ending flow of tax $$$$ which both elected and appointed guardians of the public purse dole out to them either by not collecting or giving them tax breaks. No impact fees for schools is the most glaring example but did you hear the dairymen squeal when their cheap foreign labor might be shut off. And who pays for their 7 kids education and trips to the emergency center?

  6. Editor, it needs to be stated that the Ada County Commissioners voted to approve an “amendment” to the developer’s master plan for Dry Creek Ranch. The BOCC had the decision of approving or denying changes to Boise Hunter Homes’ plans for the future site. They were not deciding if the property should be developed. That decision was made in 2010 when a previous board voted to approve the development. Last week the Commissioners approved a scaled down version from the original proposal. The “amendment” is a 50% reduction in residential density and an 85% reduction in commercial area to 85,000 square feet. If the Commissioners had denied this “amendment,” the original plan would have been automatically approved reverting back to 3500 homes and over 900,000 feet of commercial space.

    EDITOR NOTE–Thanks for the clarification, good point. I guess the West Ada voters should be glad they didn’t have to build a school for twice as many kids, or a second school. Regardless if whether it was the current board or a past board, the lack of impact fees (a legislative issue) forces the masses to subsidize the development.

  7. I found the actions of the Ada County Commissioners disgraceful. It shows they are unwilling to uphold even the basic principles of the supposed “plans” the County has for development. EVERY part of this “fantasy land” horse arena “farm to table” suburban sprawl subdivision nonsense does not comply with what the County’s own documents require. It’s not just houses on the flat former farmland and 6 feet of topsoil. It’s also houses on hills with steep cuts. They learned nothing from Terra Nativa. The “wildlife” are supposed to get by with narrow little walkways between some of the sprawl, and with Open Space out by the main Highway – putting the lives of deer and motorists into direct conflict with one another.

    The “mitigation” for wildlife is a joke. A conservation easement in Elmore County – yeah that’s great news for wildlife in western Ada County. Serious questions on water, and water use are ignored all together. YET the fancy drawings of horse arena heaven in the Developer’s scheme show lush green expanses. There is ZERO real analysis of how this will affect wells and other water use in the area, or the genetically pure redband trout in Dry Creek.

    The whole Dry Creek development is Sprawl on Steroids.
    The Commissioners spent 10 minutes hiding behind the excuse of “private property” feigning that they could do nothing to change things.

  8. Reality 101
    Feb 24, 2017, 1:50 pm

    Brutal capitalism for the citizens, socialism for the rich and well connected.

  9. sorry my property taxes have increased 70% in 5 years, and my income has in no way increased near that amount, I am taxed out. I am paying for the tax exempt growth of CCDC, St. Lukes, City land acquisitions, Churches and every other business pretending to be a non-profit, not to mention the property tax breaks the City gives their developer friends who also donate to politicians campaign coffers.

  10. No, no, no.
    This is losing the focus.
    Developers are not the enemy.
    The media is the enemy!
    It is all their fault! Developers bring us pretty houses.

    Why would a development tax (impact fee) be okay, but a property tax increase is not?
    Can we talk about the law of supply and demand, market equilibrium, and diffusion? Everyone pays in any route.

    For anyone to believe impact fees (tax on development) do not affect the surrounding housing market in higher prices and therefor higher assessments is nonsense.
    A new development does not sit in a closed bubble with a WALL around it. The economic impact of the growth is connected throughout the whole community – good and bad.

    Same as sales tax.
    Same as minimum wage increase.
    Same as costs of regulation..
    We all pay indirectly IF govt sticks an individual producer with a higher tax (impact fee).
    It is naive to predict an impact fee affects only the developer.

    EDITOR NOTE–Easterner, you fail to consider the diversion of ALL taxes on new structures within an Urban Renewal District. You fail to address the $5.9 million in state taxes used to attract the business. You fail to address the increased enrollment caused by the new workers.

  11. chicago sam
    Feb 25, 2017, 9:22 am

    In Nampa when the farm and residential ground in the area of Costco was declared part of the new Urban Renewal District the Valley View School District realized that they would potentially have to build additional schools because of the new development. The School District negotiated an agreement with the Urban Renewal District in which each year the UR District gives back at least a portion of the taxes which Valley View would have received if the area was not designated UR. Last year the payment was in the $425,000 range.
    Nampa School District on the other end of town I do not believe get anything. School Districts and other taxing entity’s need to rise up and demand payment in lieu of taxes they are not receiving for services rendered.

  12. Editor,
    Sure, those are all included in the overall effect.
    URD- True, whether URDs are good or not is a separate topic. But the diversion of the taxes is simply a shell game. It is elitism, that I disagree with, but the taxation effect is simply spread thoughout the community. URD money goes into the tiny district agency to make improvements- that money is spent on contractors, suppliers, vendors etc. Those people pay sales taxes (some comes back to the schools). Those employees pay income taxes (comes back to the schools). That nice development ATTRACTS people and property owners to buy homes outside the URD as well (increases assessed values and increases ALL tax revenues). And so on.
    Example – you and your wife can each have a $30,000 car or you can drive a $1,000 junker and she drives a $59,000 luxury car. You’re still spending $60,000 on your cars. But when you drive your wife’s fancy Caddy to the family reunion, you get a positive impression from your cousins (visitors to a city)- that is much different than if you drive an average $30,000 car. And likely you will (should) pay the same amount of taxes/registration on the two cars in either scenario.

    $5.9 million to attract business- If the state spends 5.9 and generates 29 million, that’s a good use of the dollars, right? Spending 5.9 and getting nothing, is certainly not good, but that’s the trick of economic development.

    Increased enrollment by NEW workers? That’s wonderful! Those new workers, are paying INCOME tax to the state, sales tax to the state, fuels taxes, and everything else.

    Economic concepts like the Velocity of Money and Money Multipliers are more important here than a bias toward the evil media. Oops, I meant developers.

    We can grow, decline or be stagnant. Growth takes some investment. Sure, we might have a financial hit at first, but overall everything works out and it’s wonderful. 🙂

    This is very much like the current immigration situation- it is all in one’s perspective.
    This message is like Trump’s media “war” going on.
    If someone is dissatisfied with ‘something’, it is convenient to point a discouraging finger toward a group of people- media, immigrants, DEVELOPERS, and the list goes on.

    People in the West dont’ appreciation people from the East (Easterners). Even though their families all came from the East– at some point. 🙂

  13. A comprehensive study by Al Fothergill and the Idaho Citizens Coalition in the 1970’s showed conclusively that residential developments had a negative impact on public services and were a drain on local taxes for up to 20 years after build out.

    During the early 1990’s earnest efforts to provide impact fees on residential development for school districts were defeated in the legislature primarily by the boomers in the community including the Association of Building Contractors and IACI.

    These same folks are now major supporters of shifting more of the educational burden onto homeowners through increased bond indebtedness.

  14. Considering that Idaho is rated about the same as Mississippi (last of everything), it is pretty much the Nigeria of the N. America.

  15. Rod in SE Boise
    Feb 25, 2017, 4:15 pm

    Well, at least in Ada County they ALLOW single family homes. The Mayor and City Council of Boise are trying to force us all into high density condos or apartments.

  16. Cowpoke twice removed
    Feb 26, 2017, 10:18 am

    I’m not sure how new construction impact fees would be an effective way to assess developers. The developers would simply pass the cost along to the new home buyer and that home buyer might be someone like me who’s spent every one of my 46 years living in Ada County. So I pay the fee and the couple from CA who buy my old house don’t? What am I missing?

  17. Stephanie Rael
    Feb 26, 2017, 4:53 pm

    Thank you for covering this important story.

    Regarding the Dry Creek Ranch planned community: the issues you point out (along with multiple others) were among the concerns raised by many individuals, organizations and businesses who opposed this “amendment.” Unfortunately, despite the high volume of opposition from the community, the Board of County Commissioners offered next to no discussion when they announced their approval on 2/21/17. In fact, the entire meeting lasted less than 10 minutes. It is hard to believe that the Board of County Commissioners took their community’s concerns seriously.

    Even if Boise Hunter Homes were to pursue the original plan approved in 2010 and proposed by a different developer (Land Baron Investments), there are some who feel the original plan was better than the “amendment.” Under the original plan, the developer would have been responsible for 3-4 schools, as well as massive infrastructure development this large-scale planned community would have required. As you correctly point out, under the new plan the citizens of Ada County will be responsible for shouldering these expenses, rather than the developers. I don’t think this should sit right with any of us.

    I am still confused as to why Boise Hunter Homes can use another developer’s 7-year-old approval for an entirely different plan. Could it be because if Boise Hunter Homes were to apply as a new plan today, it would be denied? The Planning and Zoning Commission confirmed this at the public hearing on 12/15/16.

    In their comment, Ada County gives the impression that Board of County Commissioners’ hands were tied and they were unable to do anything other than approve this amendment, since the original plan was already approved in 2010. If this was actually the case, a public hearing would have been superfluous. The Board of County Commissioners could have denied the “amendment,” plain and simple. They chose not to do so. It would have required leadership, foresight, and courage to deny this “amendment” and to serve the interests of their community, rather than the interests of the developers.

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