Monday, June 30, 2008
THE GUARDIAN's hp 7210 all in one printer went down for the last time over the weekend. Hewlett Packard has been the printer of choice for a number of years but not this time around. I took a look around and I could not help but notice all the various printer cartridges I have laying around that won't fit anything. Don't know if this is a industry wide deal or not but when you go to buy a new printer the old printer cartridges won't work in anything that is "NEW AND IMPROVED" with Hewlett Packard.
Not only do you get stuck with having to buy a new printer but all the dough you forked out for extra cartridges is up in smoke as well. I will look for someone that can actually use my old cartridges before they get tossed. The fact that you only get a couple of years light useage from a printer is bad enough but having to eat the cost of the cartridges is more than a little bit troubling.
The good news is that it is a competetive world out there and you can vote with your feet when it comes time to replace stuff. This time around HP was not the printer of choice. We will see how long this one lasts. HP stuff has averaged about two years before it hits the recycling place.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 10:44 AM
Thursday, June 19, 2008
The opening salvo from each side was fired off this past Tuesday over the new jail project out on Hwy. 20/26. The County Civil Lawyer Chuck Saari moved for dismissal and the Citizen Group Lawyer Dick Harris rebutted with why it should move forward.
District Judge Linda Copple-Trout cut through all the banter and cut it down to this: The injunction to halt everything is not going to go anywhere with her as the citizens can't demonstrate irrepreable dmamges, the motion for summary judgement and the outright complaint lodge by Mr. Harris will move forward. Mr. Saari was instructed to supply Mr. Harris with all the documents he requested and to pull the information together where a document does not currently exist. This means quit screwing around with what should be provided and get it done promptly. Next, she instructed the two sides to pick some dates in August to get this before the court.
Crux of the issue is once again Article 8 section 3 of the Idaho Constitution and have the Commishes created a long term liability without consent of the voters. Or at the very least should they have sought judicial confirmation before spending and obligating taxpayer monies to this project.
Note: photo is not of the county jail site but of another jail under construction. The project out on 20/26 will be every bit as large when completed if it moves forward. A 2,000 bed facility is the "dream plan". Photo is from Dave Frazier.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 11:20 AM
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Coroner Vicki DeGues-Morris came out swinging in the Saturday IPT over the contract negotiated by the Prosecutors Office and her more or less forced signature on a contract she had very little in negotiating. THE GUARDIAN has done a little research and has come with some additional thoughts for public consumption.
The Board of County Commissioners is the only county body that can negotiate,sign, enforce and terminate contracts. The Prosecuting Attorney can only ADVISE on legal issues of the contract. BOCC authority should not be transferred to another elected official. Under Idaho Law, it is a misstatement of fact and wrong terminology for the BOCC to contract or have the PA "negotiate a contract", the Commissioners have to be part of the negotiation. Additionally, Ms. DeGues-Morris is the elected official that holds the Coroners job and should have been part of the contract talks. The new Ada County pathology contract costs $28,000/month comes directly out of her budget.
The real question here is if the BOCC didn't like the contract with Ada County, then why in the world would they have signed the contract? Why did they do it when the elected coroner was out of town on vacation? Once again, they presented this as the ONLY solution to a problem. We all know there are generally more than one solution to any given problem. Why wasn't the Elected Coroner involved in this process.
In summary, THE GUARDIAN would like to offer section 31-601 of the Idaho Code for your review. The county is described by state law "a body politic and corporate". In this capacity the county has to power to make contracts (31-602). The law makes clear the corporate powers of the county can be exercised only by the BOCC or by agents and officers acting for the board or under the authority of the law. Thus, the BOCC have powers similar in many respects to those held by a board of trustees for a private corporation. The BOCC has and may exercise, only these powers as are expressly or through implication conferred upon it by statute (see Prothero v. Board 22 Idaho 598, 127P.175 (1912).
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 10:23 AM
Thursday, June 12, 2008
THE GUARDIAN has learned via public information County Government is indeed in some serious financial difficulty. Problem is the Commishes and Elected Officials are "wishing" these problems would go away. Reality is things are only getting more serious with each passing day. Nobody wants to face the reality nor the gravity of the situation as they drift close to the "red ink" side of the ledger. The silence and denials are not going to hold up much longer from public scrutiny.
The concerns are several issues:
First, the county tax collections are normally at 60% of expected totals for this point in time for the year. As of today they are at 47% of expected totals. Thirteen percent of a very big number if you are in the tax collection business like the county.
Next, is the issue of fees for services rendered. Down, dead and all but gone in Development Services, building permits, platting fees, recording fees and just about everything related to the real estate bubble that exploded last fall in Canyon County. These fees are not part of the tax collections but are an integral part of the county cash flow to meet cash demands. The total amount is substantial and it won't be there for this next fiscal year as well.
The Commissioners went on a property acquisition binge that has drained reserve funds that were invested by the County Treasurer. Not only is the money gone but the interest and dividends from those funds are gone to the tune of around $1 million dollars of income that the county will not get.
We still have the $3.8 Million dollar hole not filled by the sale of the Jerome Property that has to be made up out of reserves. Golly gee whiz, the Commishes were so sure they were not only going to sell that albatross but actually make a big fat profit when it did close. Property sales agreement signed in January 2008 and still has not closed. These guys do not have a "shoe box" under their mattresses to pull out $3.8 million to make up this shortfall.
The Commishes also have to shell out and settle up with the State Lands Board the $1.2 Million or so they spent on the Job Service Building out behind Larry Miller Ford.
Now let's not forget the budget for fiscal 2008/09. With fees for services down, the Sheriff wanting a big wad of money to keep his "Detroit Iron" rolling down the road with adequate amounts of fuel, increases for health benefits, and a litany of other stuff. The rumor is the county money counters are telling the Commishes and Department Heads they need to adjust downward for about a $9 Million dollar shortfall.
Next year it looks like this...severely reduced fees for services, no substantial new tax base(commercial or residential) to fold into the budget and a 3% cap on the actual amount of property tax increase on existing property and it spells pain and suffering at 1115 Albany Street.
The County Deciders are going to be faced with the stark reality of living withing their fee's and tax collecting means to make their budget projections. This will be interesting as it plays out for public view. Last, there has always been around a 25% carryover of funds from one budget year to the next. The new fiscal year starts on October 1, 2008 and there is virtually no cash flowing into the county treasury from any significant sources until the December property taxes start getting paid off by all of us. This year with the budget mess the Commishes have allowed to happen means they are in big trouble with having an adequate carryover for the beginning of the 2008/2009 fiscal year.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 2:41 PM
THE GUARDIAN received a post from a reader that has posed a very interesting slant on how our properties get valued by the County Assessor.
The reader has pointed out that the valuations in the Assessor's data base more than likely have very low confidence levels. The confidence in the accuracy of those valuations is directly proportional to the size of the data base. Or in layman's terms, just because a few dummies bought real estate that was way over-priced last year does not mean that the sane people amongst us need to take a huge hit (reads increased valuation) due to the actions of a select few.
It would be interesting if the TV and print media would put the question of the data base size as well as the confidence levels in the data to the good people at 115 Albany. There are huge cracks in the logic and reason used for the valuations we received this year on our properties but no serious challenges have been issued by the media at large.
Editor note: Readers are encouraged to check out S&P's Case-Shiller Index. This statistical methodology has reliability and confidence in the numbers for property values. Wikipedia can explain it all very well to the average person without the mathematical mumbo-jumbo.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 1:57 PM
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Now that gasoline is officially over the $4/gallon mark and headed to $5/gallon in parts of the country, THE GUARDIAN is wondering if the mindset of those spending our tax dollars have given any real thought to shedding all the behemoth vehicles used to keep government humming along as they come up for replacement.
The police car above is a mere suggestion to those budgeting our tax dollars. Other countries have had to adjust to gasoline prices far more than they are in this country years and years ago. We have to ask ourselves what the elected, appointed and other government agencies are doing to lessen the impact of energy costs on their transportation needs. We are in the budget season for most government agencies. Let's all hope some thought is given to vehicle maintenance and operating costs as fleets are replaced.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 9:38 AM
Friday, June 6, 2008
The photo is of the Caldwell Police Station that remains mortgaged and we will continue to make payments on for the forseeable future. The argument for this was that it was needed to demonstrate to the outside world that we were willing to invest in our future as a city. (The cops did need a new place in the scheme of things.) The daylighting of Indian Creek as beautiful as it has turned out has not yet produced any significant economic activity in downtown Caldwell. And now we have the New City Hall Economic Stimulus Project before us at a yet undefined cost. We do have about $400,000.00 worth of studies collecting dust in the room none of us ever get to visit.
THE GUARDIAN attended the downtown revitalization meeting on the 29th of May and has some questions that aren't getting asked by people footing the bills, so here goes:
1. Do we really need a new city hall for Caldwell or could that money be spent on a project(s) that will actually create some economic activity.
2. Is this the best location for a city hall or will it simply remove prime commercial property from the tax rolls forever.
3. The Mayor and Mr. Cannon have thrown our job numbers that will be created from this "catalyst project" like they are manna from the heavens. This spring it was 1600 jobs now it is 700-800 new jobs for downtown Caldwell. Has anyone challenged the Mayor or Mr. Cannon on any data to support this stuff thrown out so casually as if it is FACT?
4. Parking! Does this city hall/retail complex meet the city requirements for parking schedules in city ordinances. The ordinance schedule at one time was one parking space for each 250 square feet. Has anyone put the measuring tape to this so that off street parking requirements are met and that the city is holding themselves to the same standards they hold other business owners for this project?
5. Will the location of the proposed Veterans Administration Clinic use up more prime tax generating property on the creek frontage and not generate a dime of tax revenue for the city? Good project to have downtown but not at the expense of commercial development in that location.
6. The "BOARDS AND COMMITTEES" all seem to be made up from the "A list" of Team Garrett's YES people. Is this just my observation or is it in fact a reality?
7. Are we trying to spend our way into prosperity when just this past week Vallejo, California filed for bankruptcy. A city of 130,000 people let their elected officials do this to their city. Plummeting real estate values and crushing debt created this mess for this bay area suburb.
8. Idaho tax revenues are plummeting and unemployment is up 10% from the last measurement to 5.5%. Not high by historical standards but add to that one in ten homes built since the year 2000 stands empty in this country and the banking fiasco not anywhere near the bottom. The dark clouds of recession are gathering momentum and we are not acting as a Community,or County in a fiscally responsible manner.
9. Ada County Courthouse was supposed to be a "free" deal for the taxpayers with the private public partnership. Retail was a flop and now Ada County gets to pay for the whole structure with property tax dollars. Does any of this hit a note with the elected politicos in Caldwell?
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 7:56 PM
Thursday, June 5, 2008
THE GUARDIAN learned from a local paper reporter there were 800 appeals to assessments on property valuations last year in Canyon County. The number of appeals that were approved ...30! Moral of the story is don't waste yours and their time.
It is a rigged program not in favor of the property owner. THE GUARDIAN feels like none of the assessments in his neighborhood reflect anywhere near what property can be sold for in the market today. Matters not to the Assessor and his data base that reflects last years sales data. Homes have been on the market for more than 400 days with no takers but the Assessor remains steadfast in the valuations that they are indeed correct.
So, suck it up all you proud homeowners and pay the piper. Your complaints will not garner much in the way of any changes to your new assessments. Thanks, to the state legislature, the stalwarts at the Assessors office and their new Manitron/PRO-VALUE software. Another method additionally used by the Assessor in leiu of physical appraisals is the use of overhead photos done by airplanes that capture photos of your property. All of this stuff is done behind a desk and on a computer for the most part. Your actual property value is at best a statistical guess.
Also heard from inside the walls at 1115 Albany Street is that the Manitron System used to determine the new and improved valuations is the very same system that caused all the ruckus on our 2007 property tax bills with the Traci Lloyd and the Treasurers Office. Also, the Commishes have shoved another Million dollars or so at the county IT Department and about $370,000 or so will go to Manitron to do fixes and patches on this boondoggle. We would all lilke to think the system would work according to "purchase specifications" and the necessary support would have come with the original deal. Seems we may have just purchased the DEMO and now Manitron is in the process of bleeding us taxpayers dry in more than one manner to get the system to work in the manner claimed by the supplier. (Does all this sound like a DILBERT comic strip or what?).
It will be interesting to see if the deciders at the legislature get enough blowback from constituents to actually move to a weight avearge on property assessments this next term. We all drank the Kool Aid on the last go around that was supposed to "lower our taxes" like the ads for Mr. Risch stated during the primary.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 10:47 AM