Boise & Garden City

Boise’s next budget climbs to $764 million. Here are the city’s funding priorities.

Boise’s budget for the 2020 fiscal year is $764.7 million, affecting everything from fire stations to the city’s plans for a new library. That’s a 1.58 percent increase over fiscal 2019.

The budget proposal for the the city primarily reflects the growth of its population. That means dedicating money to “planning for growth” and adding new emergency personnel. It also means focusing on alleviating traffic congestion.

One of Boise’s more contentious budgetary issues is how a new library would be funded. After much debate and criticism over how Boise would pay for the $85 million project, Mayor David Bieter told the Statesman in early June that the city was considering a cash option.

At the council’s workshop on the budget Tuesday, Boise budget manager Eric Bilimoria broke down exactly what a new financing plan would look like. A proposal included using $7.5 million from the city’s cash flow reserve and combining that with as much as $5 million in savings from potentially remodeling Fire Station No. 5 instead of rebuilding.

Further money for the library would come from the savings of not having to make a lease payment on the project ($7 million), from the Capital Fund Balance ($3 million) and from an estimated overage of $6 million from the 2019 fiscal year.

The remaining $1.5 million could come from deferring the purchase of the Hillcrest Library property.

City Council President Lauren McLean said she would rather “know alternatives rather than walking away from a neighborhood library,” and asked for other options to be considered for a source of that money.

The plan for the other $55 million of the project remains the same: $22 million from the city’s capital fund, $15 million from the Capital City Development Corp. and $18 million in private philanthropy.

In other parts of its budget proposal, Boise said it is looking for six new police officers (one of whom would work at the airport), a new prosecutor, an emergency preparedness coordinator and several positions in the city’s Information Technology department. The city is also looking to bring on a position in the Planning and Development Services department to “further the city’s transportation initiatives.”

For employees already working for the city, the new proposal allows for a 3 percent base increase for salaries plus 2 percent one-time compensation. It also contains $300,000 in “personnel contingency allocation” that allows the city to adjust employees’ salaries in order to “attract and retain a high-quality workforce.”

The budget also contains money to tackle some of Boise’s biggest problems. For instance, it allocates $325,000 to continue the city’s “Grow Our Housing” initiative.

The city’s planned contribution to Valley Regional Transit is $8.6 million, a 15.9 percent increase from fiscal year 2019. That number includes $1 million for route enhancements. Enhancements could include more buses in order to increase how frequently buses visit certain stops.

Boise spends an estimated 5 percent of its budget on VRT, which is considered one of the city’s “contractual services.” By comparison, the city spends 56.4 percent of its budget funding the police and fire departments, 13.1 percent funding Parks and Recreation, and 6.4 percent funding the library system.

Boise City Council voted to approve a draft budget at its meeting Tuesday afternoon. There will be a public hearing on the budget on July 16.

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Hayley covers local government for the Idaho Statesman with a primary focus on Boise. Previously, she worked for the Salisbury Daily Times, the Hartford Courant, the Denver Post and McClatchy’s D.C. bureau. Hayley graduated from Ohio University with degrees in journalism and political science.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.