Guest Opinions

$180 million ‘just the tip of the iceberg’ in total CWI bond costs

$180 million CWI expansion bond faces critical Nov. 8 vote

College of Western Idaho President Bert Glandon understands the difficulty of passing one of the area's largest bonds ever by a 2/3 margin Nov. 8. If voters in Ada and Canyon Counties pass the $180 million measure the school would create a new cam
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College of Western Idaho President Bert Glandon understands the difficulty of passing one of the area's largest bonds ever by a 2/3 margin Nov. 8. If voters in Ada and Canyon Counties pass the $180 million measure the school would create a new cam

The College of Western Idaho’s $180 million bond is the tip of an iceberg. Beneath the surface is at least $78 million in interest payments; a CWI budget model that projects deficits through 2021-22; a “Revenue Scenario” that doubles the current property tax; supplementary tax levies; and a guaranteed payment of the interest to bondholders that could further increase property taxes should revenue decline. Consider the following:

▪ The total public indebtedness for the bond, including the interest, exceeds at least a quarter of a billion dollars.

▪ CWI’s “Strategic Plan-FY2018-FY2022” budget modeling, as presented at its May board meeting, projects increasing budget deficits, beginning in 2017-18.

▪  In its “Long-Range Financial Model,” CWI concludes, “...the only viable way to move away from the status quo and move into the Strategic Plan lies with increased support from the State and the community...these two revenue pursuits are the most promising long-term strategies.” CWI has modeled a 100 percent increase in property taxes from $16 to $32 per $100,000 in property valuation. Add to this the tax for the bond payment.

▪ As stated by at least one trustee, the Legislature will not provide CWI what is called “equitable” funding, comparable to the other community colleges in the state, because some legislators believe that Ada and Canyon county taxpayers should pay more per $100,000 valuation.

▪ A CWI trustee stated at the May board meeting that, should the college need additional money for operating, supplementary tax levies require only a 51 percent majority to pass.

▪ Along with the capital projects that the bond will fund come increased operating expenses. If CWI is projecting budget deficits beginning in 2017-18, how does it plan to pay for these additional operating expenses should the bond pass?

▪  By law, bondholders must receive their interest payment, and property taxes can be raised to do so. Refer to Section 8 of CWI’s “Notice of Special General Obligation Bond Election.”

▪ Of the $180 million, $65 million will be spent for the Ada County campus and $115 million for the Canyon County improvements. Ada County’s net taxable property value for 2015, as of December, was $33,037,735,077, three-and-a-half times greater than Canyon County’s valuation of $9,310,260,403. The Ada campus is not first on the list of capital projects.

Since CWI’s inception, I have attended many board meetings. Present at each of the meetings from May through August 2016, I witnessed the discussions pertaining to the bond election. The information presented here is firsthand, and I believe that it is disingenuous to publicize the tax per $100,000 of valuation without more disclosure of the additional potential tax impact if the bond passes.

Bob Van Arnem, who is retired, is a 37-year resident of Ada County who regularly attends CWI public meetings.

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