Downtown Boise grows up, and up, and up
Boise's rapid growth is delivering a windfall to City Hall.
Developers have filed more applications, building permits and other paperwork associated with their projects this year than the city anticipated. Fees for those filings could offset other government costs. Or, they could help pay for costly projects like new branch libraries and fire stations, perhaps even a proposed — and controversial — new stadium or main branch library.
Boise's 2018 fiscal year ends Sept. 30. The city received $5.7 million in paperwork fees in the first half of the year. If that rate continues, this year's total will easily eclipse last year's $9.7 million. It would cross the $11 million mark for the first time since 2016, when planning and construction began on several hotels and other major Downtown projects.
The city also expects to receive over $100,000 more from impact fees this year than in 2017, according to this year's budget. Developers pay those fees to offset the strain their projects place on public services.
So what does Boise do with the extra money? The answer depends on the type of fee.
Boise spends impact fees to expand three services: police, fire protection and parks. For example, impact fees will pay for things like a bridge at Marianne Williams Park, a restroom at Esther Simplot Park and a police station, city spokesman Mike Journee said.
Money from paperwork helps fund the city's Planning and Development Services department, whose staffers process applications and other documents associated with land-use projects.
The actual percentage covered depends on the year. In 2013, fees paid for 52 percent of Planning and Development Services' cost, Journee said. The general fund, mostly paid for by property taxes, covered the rest.
In 2016, the $11.2 million Boise received from fees was more than the city needed to operate that department. The city transferred the extra money to the general fund, as it does with any department's surplus, Journee said. Sometimes, that money ends up in a special account for large, one-time expenses — including libraries and fire stations.
Though fee revenue has increased this year, so has the cost of running the department. Partly, that's because Boise has hired more people to handle the influx of projects, Journee said.
The city's budget anticipates Planning and Development Services expenditures of $12.6 million this year — still well above the expected fee income.
Before the year began, Boise budgeted for fees totaling $9.94 million, Journee said. The City Council appropriated the rest — about $2.7 million — from the general fund. By the end of the year, Journee said, city leaders expect to return $1 million or more to the general fund.