Friday, August 21, 2009

A Budget I Will Vote For

On August 26, 2009, ACHD will pass its budget. Chances are there will be little to no public testimony. While property taxes have fallen, the tax rate will rise. In November, after the election of course, property tax bills will show up in mailboxes and the land will be rife with gnashing of teeth and cursing the amount of property tax collected.

ACHD is not going to collect the 3% increase allowed by law, but nonetheless, I do not think our budget recognizes the severe problems that Ada County residents face.

I believe that we need to cut the property tax collection by $1,000,000 this year over last, rather than just let the tax rate float ever upwards to capture the same amount of taxes. This would amount to a 3% property tax cut for ACHD taxpayers. I don't know how this will fare with the other Commissioners, but I'm hopeful that it will be considered.

What cuts do I think should be made?

We subsidize Commuteride by $250,000 per year. It already is heavily subsidized by our tax dollars from the federal government. We reduced the Commuteride travel budget by $10,000 in July. This is a service that should be paid for by users. Savings $240,000

Our Legal Department has 3 very well paid attorneys who do not litigate. If we sue or are sued, we need to pay for outside lawyers. Either decrease by one attorney or do in house litigation. Savings $125,000

Our Communications Department has a budget of $680,000 and 7 employees, yet we still have to pay for outside help writing the Conehead column. While it's important to keep our website up, our main phone answered and the Tellus line manned for quick responses to the public, this budget is in place in large part because it is felt that "our side of the story needs to be told". This is an indulgence that needs to go. Savings $300,000.

We have a paid lobbyist. We also help to pay for a lobbyist through COMPASS and we pay dues to the Association of Highway Districts that also has a lobbyist. I've spoken with legislators who have not heard from our lobbyist on any issue and were not aware that we even had one. If necessary, Commissioners can lobby, the director can lobby, other staff can lobby. And there are always our association lobbyists. Savings $68,000

We have an overtime budget of $271,900. Two thirds of this is in our maintenance divisions and most is there for potential snow removal. However, we also have overtime in all other departments. We can shift the work week so that the weekends start the work week. That way, any call outs on Saturday or Sunday can be compensated for later in the week, eliminating overtime. We have also cross trained a number of inspectors , whose work is greatly diminished, to run heavy equipment. Overtime should really be unnecessary for the most part. Savings $257,000

Total savings $1,000,000

None of the above will affect the service to the general public. Maintenance will be done, the streets will be swept, the phones will be answered, the signals will turn from green to yellow to red.

All will not agree with my suggestions and that's fine. If these cuts are not to your liking, come to the budget "town hall" meeting on August 26 and present your own ideas. If you can't come, then e-mail a list. But to dismiss the idea of cutting taxes out of hand does a great disservice to the taxpayers.

NOTE: Many of these items have been discussed but not acted upon. As soon as the minutes are up on the ACHD website with the notes from the budget session, I'll create a link. It's here.


At August 21, 2009 at 3:32 PM , Blogger Eric said...

I can certainly live with all of these cuts. I hope the attorney is the one who was involved in the Maple Grove Extension debacle... where one entity supported by my money took that money and sued another supported by my money.

At August 23, 2009 at 5:13 PM , Blogger Steven G. Stubbs said...

Looking good. As you said, we must make do with what we have under the condition. And the economical condition is very bad. We all need to make some sacrifice. I wish you could cut some more from the projects that are not absolutely necessary -- remember how you quote the numbers of traffic at various intersections. We could save some more, but this is a good start. Thank you for your effort on behalf of the people in the county.

At August 25, 2009 at 3:11 PM , Blogger Gale Pooley said...

Thank you for recognizing the problem with declining property values. In Eagle assessed values declined by 14.8 percent. The proposed budget increases property taxes by 4 percent. This means the levy rate goes up 22 percent. Does this sound like a good idea in the middle of the worst recession in
75 years?


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