Reader's View: Boise should use impact fees - not bonds

October 5, 2013 

We are told there is no organized opposition to two Boise bonds raising taxes to fund not "investments" but current expenses. There should be.

Boise has taken the maximum increase in property tax every year and, instead of maintaining the various fire stations, it has built several new stations. Now the city wants to borrow $16.9 million to repair existing stations and pay back over 20 years.

Two problems with this: Current income should pay current expenses; it is not smart to finance "repairs" for 20 years. What banker would finance, for example, a paint job for 20 years?

The proposal is not sufficiently detailed, leaving room for some mischief. Would the city be adding flat screen TVs, exercise rooms, day care facilities to the stations?

A partial answer to this is to do the repairs to fire stations out of current income the way they built the new stations. This would invite more scrutiny, allow less mischief. Live within means of the city. No borrowing.

Another funding source is the millions dedicated to the fire department impact fees the city is collecting. The city doesn't want to tell us how much they are collecting or how they are spending it.

Impact fees are anti-growth and smell a lot like slush funds for the firefighter union.

Public employee unions end up supporting the elected officials with whom they negotiate their union contracts. Mayors support union interests.

In this case, it looks like the mayor is supporting an open-ended $16.9 million line of credit for the fire department, however they want to use it.

The fire department seems to be quite loosely managed with little concern about costs or efficiencies.

I can't say Boise is any better at managing its parks. Impact fees collected for parks apparently have not been used for parks on the Bench, hence the request for bond funds to build new city parks on the Bench.

Existing residents generally are not aware the city is collecting "impact" fees or how they are being used, so they can easily be misled by public officials preening for their next election.

Mayor Dave Bieter needs to keep his financial supporters (firefighters) happy and shore up support from voters in areas not well served with city parks by offering each more money by way of a bond.

Again, a bond is not needed to build more parks. Just start using the "impact" fees already being collected for parks.

To be clear, these bond issues are not "investments" in the usual sense that an asset is purchased with the hope of a financial return or increase in the value of the asset.

The fire department bond is a payback to the union for its past and future support while the park bond is to borrow money to build something for which the funds have already been collected and spent for something else.

Were some of these funds used for salary increases?

I am voting no on each of these phony bond issues. I urge you to do the same.

James Auld is president of the Ada County Property Owners Association

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