Tracking code caldwell guardian

Monday, May 31, 2010

We Need To Improve Curb, Gutter and Sidewalks, Here's Why

Lack of sidewalks in Caldwell and other cities is making our kids FAT!  Boomer kids grew up without seat belts, mothers who smoked and drank booze while pregnant and other things parents today consider "life threatening behavior".

One area of concern to THE GUARDIAN is we have produced a couple of generations of kids who can't or won't walk anymore to anything.  The family truckster shuttles kids everywhere, to everything you can imagine.

The subject of why kids can't walk to school is something in which all parents should become vested.  Some years back I asked school Supt. Roger Quarrels why kids don't walk to school anymore.  The short answer is LACK OF SIDEWALKS, AND STOP LIGHT CONTROLLED CROSSWALKS.

Taxpayers should be concerned about the costs of busing kids to schools when they live within walking distance.  The fix is simple.  Invest in sidewalks where they currently do not exist.  Kids should be expected to walk or ride a bicycle to school when the distance is less than 1.5 miles.  The challenge is to give kids a safe way to do this.  The benefits are enormous with money wasted on busing and kids and improving general health and activity of our community.

The following was taken off Caldwell School District website:

"What is being done to cut busing costs? Can off-campus travel (sports, music) be reduced? Can busing be limited to students living more than one mile away? What is the cost of busing ALP students? (ALP stands for students performing two years ahead of grade level)

Each year we look at every bus route and modify them so that they give us the best transportation for our children for the least cost. Our district does a great deal of safety busing, which means that the children cannot cross a major arterial such as 10th or Linden, they cannot cross canals or waterways that could prove hazardous, nor can they walk down roads that have narrow shoulders and no sidewalks. The bottom line is that we are required to bus the majority of our children to their schools. The cost of busing the ALP students is minimal when you consider what the cost would be if we had to hire three ALP teachers (3rd grade, 4th grade, fifth grade) for each school. We feel that the ALP program is an important part of educating ALL of our children and in meeting the needs of ALL children. Off campus transportation for extra-curricular programs can be limited and is considered when looking at these programs. Again, it comes down to what our community expects from the schools in the way of sports, music, drama, debate, etc., which we try to provide within our budget."

It is time for us all to figure out how to fix this with a city program to put sidewalks where they don't exist. We think nothing of spending millions on school bonds and override elections.  This is a health and safety issue for everyone to consider investing in for their community. 

Sidewalks are at best a piecemeal effort in Caldwell.  Caldwell is not a pedestrian friendly city.  This could change with some political will to make it happen via our elected officials.

Lastly, your kids don't need a security detail for every move they make.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Caldwell Mayor Nancolas "never received the messages", 911 Dispatch Issues Reach Emergency Levels

Caldwell Mayor Garret Nancolas is once again clueless in Caldwell regarding a pressing budget issue.

This time around it is over the terms and conditions in a letter sent to Mayor Nancolas on January 4, 2010 regarding County costs for  combined city/county 911 dispatch operations. Sheriff Smith appears to be going for the brass ring on this as well by billing Caldwell property taxpayers $518,633.19 for dispatch services.  Commissioners and the Sheriff finally gave up on trying to get a response from the Mayor. Mayor Nancolas was sent a formal letter dated January 4th, 2010 regarding County  911 dispatch costs and a proposal to share the $1.5MM costs of the dispatch center. (public records indicate Canyon County will receive on the order of $1.3MM for phone surcharges under e-911 collections this fiscal year)

Here's the deal gleaned from public records:

 Back in 2001 the City and County formally agreed to combine 911 dispatch services to the benefit of all city and county residents and taxpayers. When Caldwell built the new police station, the county would get all the e-911 surcharges from Caldwell you see on phone/telecom bills you get each month. The city would not build a new dispatch center and save money on the construction and costs of a new 911 dispatch center.

In the original agreement page 5, item #3, "If COUNTY seeks contributions from the users of CCSO's dispatch services, CITY shall negotiate with the COUNTY, in good faith, an amendment to this Agreement for contributions by the CITY to the COUNTY for the operation of CCSO"S dispatch services center."

A meeting was held with Mayor Nancolas, the CCBOC, and a cast of other 911 players on February 8th,2010. Commissioner Ferdinand said Mayor Nancolas was given a letter dated January 4th, 2010 regarding budget issues where the county hasn't been charging for dispatch services.

"Mayor Nancolas said the only time he heard anything about the budget issues was after receiving the letter. He also said he wished the board had not sent the letter. Commissioner Rule said he called Mayor Nancolas a couple of times over the last two weeks and didn't receive a call back. Mayor Nancolas said he never received the messages."

(The response from Mayor Nancolas is a pretty much stock answer when he is confronted with facts. He can plead ignorance of the topic and download this communication failure onto "the best staff Caldwell has ever had." If he, in fact, did not receive word of Commissioner Rule's repeated efforts to contact him, then he should consider replacing his secretarial staff for incompetence.)

Councilman and former Caldwell Chief of Police, Bob Sobba was at the February meeting. Mr. Sobba reminded everyone it was the county's choice in 2001 not to receive fees for personnel costs. A 20 year upgrade project on 911 communications equipment is now completed due to the agreement to combine 911 services.  Now the county wants to change terms of the deal per item #3 in the origianl agreement signed by all the parties to the resolution.

We are in an economy leaving all taxing entities scrambling to collect all the cash they can from every source possible. Dispatch personnel costs to the county are $1,524,047.00 for fiscal 2009.  Sheriff Smith and Commishes now want to download 33.3% of dispatch personnel costs onto the city of Caldwell over a three year period, despite getting all the e-911 cash from Caldwell.

Caldwell's decision in 2001 to not build a dispatch center was a good faith and very wise decision made by Chief Sobba and Sheriff Nourse. We don't know how much e-911 cash Caldwell generates for the County but with the upgraded dispatch center in place we don't think Caldwell should be on the hook for a full third of the operational costs. The cash generated by e-911 charges given to the county should be a consideration.  Sheriff Smith is reported to not share this view of the e-911 revenues received from Caldwell.

This could deteriorate to Caldwell making a break from the county and starting its own dispatch center again or combining with Nampa or Caldwell and the County coming to a reasonable agreement. In the meantime it appears the Commishes are about to embark on a fee for all services renedered to the cities by the county.  Sort of looks like double taxation from down here in the trenches.  City folks can look forward to tax bills from both the city and the county for stuff if your get what is happening here.

Caldwell residents should be asking why wasn't Mayor Nancolas paying attention to efforts to bring him into the discussions early on in this vital issue? His pleading he didn't receive notification on this matter is "weak sauce" at best and incompetence in discharging the duties and responsibilities of his office on the extreme end.

Mayor Nancolas says his door always open but he is never there and his staff can't seem to get vital information and communications to him in a businesslike manner.  (Meanwhile the city of Caldwell has not yet responded to our public records request in this matter placed earlier this past week.)

More to come as this unfolds and more info is received.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Watching Out When There is No Media?

Who's watching out when there's no media?

by Mike Reineck and Mike Silva

We suffer from the diminishment of mainstream journalism, both the loss of newspapers and the willingness of publishers and reporters to do more than just report the obvious. The causes really don't matter; there is nothing to be done. It is too late.

As journalism's business model collapses, Robert McChesney and John Nichols' book The Death and Life of American Journalism substantiates print's move to intensive care:

• Last year, 140 newspapers closed.

• In the last two years, more than 30,000 workers were laid off. There are real journalists losing their jobs, especially in midsize and small cities. For example, the Statesman's corporate owner, McClatchy, has laid off 30 percent of its workers.

• As beat reporters are lost, government at every level is no longer routinely covered.

• The more than 200 foreign correspondents who worked overseas in 2000 now number 100. The Washington Post announced in December the closure of bureaus in Berlin, Rio and Cape Town.

Newspaper circulation losses accelerated in 2009, falling 10.6 percent from 2008 and now have declined 25.6 percent since 2000. That pales in comparison to revenue losses. In the past two years, ad revenues fell 23 percent, from $49 billion to $38 billion.

In 1960, the ratio of public relations people to journalists was 1-to-1. In 1980, the ratio had increased to 1.2-to-1. Now, it is 4-to-1 and at the current rate could be 8-to-1 by 2014.

In a 2009 report, the Pew Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism found that corporate, special interest and government PR machines use press conferences, controlled interviews or press releases to produce 86 percent of stories in Baltimore and, by extension, the country. What is featured as news is really the powerful dictating what's reported with little fact checking.

With the diminished role of newspapers as democracy's watchdog, who will protect the commonweal? Surely, we can count on the The New York Times, Washington Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Los Angeles Times for a while.

Certainly the jury is in a locked room deliberating whether television or cable news will ever take up the cudgel. Doubtful. The FCC is currently trying to obtain bandwidth that might be used in the public interest.

There is NPR, but it is watched over with such a heavy hand that its attempts to be balanced make out-right propaganda sound reasonable.

The answer is closer to home. As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and he is us." Who will protect the commonweal? "We" is the answer.

We must wake up from the opiate of glee and entertainment that so fills our lives and focus on the real world and what is happening to it.

We must--absolutely must--continue to educate ourselves and absolutely insist that our youth receive first-class educations that teach them to think, to read, to analyze and to add two and two and come up with the correct answer.

We must stop believing every talking head from Limbaugh to Olbermann to Beck to Brian Williams and use our own heads to cut through what is an outright lie, what is a government push, and what might be the simple truth.

One of the problems is that the First Amendment allows speech that is outright lies that serve to damage someone or something--or get someone elected. When does such speech meet the test of shouting fire in a crowded theater?

In addition to supporting efforts like ProPublica and the Boise Weekly, proposed fixes include public funding for independent news organizations, tax credits for purchasing newspapers, and other measures not politically probable.

We repeat, the answer is "we."

( Mike Reineck has been an engaged Boise resident for 24 years. Mike Silva is a former longtime journalist, has been a community activist and observer of Boise and Ada County and has written about it for years.)

MSDS Safety Information Not Provided To County Employees

It has been reported to THE GUARDIAN an altercation (shouting match) between a county maintenance worker and another county employee over spraying an unknown chemical in the offices of the county clerks on the second floor of the courthouse today.  Employees are getting headaches, nausea and calling in sick from the usage of the unknown chemical spray.  Employees have asked to know what they are getting exposed to without success.  They have a federally mandated right to know this information.

Material Safety Data Sheets  (MSDS) are required by federal law to be on file and accessible to employees exposed to all chemicals used in the workplace.  MSDS records are part and parcel of any OSHA inspection.

A material safety data sheet (MSDS) is a form containing data regarding the properties of a particular substance. An important component of product stewardship and workplace safety, it is intended to provide workers and emergency personnel with procedures for handling or working with that substance in a safe manner, and includes information such as physical data (melting point, boiling point, flash point, etc.), toxicity, health effects, first aid, reactivity, storage, disposal, protective equipment, and spill-handling procedures. MSDS formats can vary from source to source within a country depending on national requirements.
MSDS (material safety data sheets) are a widely used system for cataloging information on chemicals, chemical compounds, and chemical mixtures. MSDS information may include instructions for the safe use and potential hazards associated with a particular material or product. These data sheets can be found anywhere where chemicals are being used.

There is also a duty to properly label substances on the basis of physico-chemical, health and/or environmental risk. Labels can include hazard symbols such as the European Union standard black diagonal cross on an orange background, used to denote a harmful substance.

Workers at the courthouse have been unable to get a direct answer to why they are getting sick nor are they getting any information about what was sprayed in their work environment while they working.

 We worry about workers getting treated as #2 pencils to be discarded and kept in the dark about potentially hazardous chemicals in the workplace.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

"Greed Is Good", 2010 Tax Increases v. 2009

All the talk about cash strapped government entities may be just so much smoke and mirrors.  THE GUARDIAN has obtained a chart of the increased taxes to be collected and is sharing this information with our readers what the most egregious entites property tax bite will be in 2010:

City of Nampa                 +$1,025,456.00                 +3.34%   for tax year 2010

City of Caldwell               +$521,485.00                   +4.25%

City of Middleton             +$72,269.00                     +8.14%

College of W. Id               +$255,000.00                   +5.09%

Canyon Hwy Dist. #4       +$201,597.00                   +5.69%

Canyon County                -$1,344,308                     -3.35%  (WILL NOT TAKE 3% INCREASE ALLOWED BY STATE STATUTE)

Caldwell Rural Fire          +$53,762                           +4.88%

Nampa Hwy Dist #1         +$258,107.00                    +5.01%

Kuna Fire                          +$61,271.00                      +5.69%

There are other agencies taking increases but they are small for the most part.  No matter what they say about keeping taxes in check for us taxpayers these are the numbers at this point in time. Read their collective lips...they are going to take all they can get from us except for the County Taxes.

 Canyon County tax bite is the only one to show a decrease and any belt tightening.  The Commishes have acted in good faith with the taxpayers suffering in this economy.

Final note:  You are going to receive you 2010 tax assessment notices in the mail within the next few days.  Most of you will see a dramatic drop in the value of your property.  This does not translate to a lower property tax.  It looks from the above you will see a tax increase if you live in an incorporated city in Canyon County.

Monday, May 24, 2010

You May Be Paying Too Much For Homeowner Insurance

We all hate paying too much for stuff we hardly ever use and Homeowners Insurance falls into this category.  The prospects of a malady to the place we all hold near and dear is what prompts us to have adequate insurance to replace our homes and stuff should the need arise. It is also a condition of financing a home. Very few of us have the financial reserves to replace things and insurance fills this need.  Banks want their money if the place burns down or is destroyed by a force of nature or act of god.

I decided to check other companies as we thought we were paying a lot of cash  for homeowners insurance with falling values and lower replacement costs.  We checked three companies and they all use an estimator to figure the replacement costs of your digs.  All three companies we checked were pretty close on the replacement values except for the current insurer.  Their valuations were significantly higher. What was going on with the difference?

Here's the deal.  You need to initiate the process of having your home value reset and your insurance premium will reflect the new (perhaps lower) costs of replacement in this economy.  The insurance companies won't do this for you.  You have to don't ask, you continue to pay higher premiums.  This is how all the insurance companies can tell you they are lower in cost if you switch to their company. 

Replacement costs for homes and businesses have dropped dramatically in the past two years.  We were paying an insurance premium reflecting higher than estimated cost  to replace/rebuild our home.
A call to your agent will initiate the process.  Check your "DEC SHEET" aka declarations page and ask the value to be checked.  It could save you some cash come renewal time on your homeowners policy.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Meridian Also Has No Problem Abusing Urban Renewal Laws

We took this off the Idaho Freedom Foundation website for your information.  Urban Renewal abuse is not something unique to Caldwell, Nampa and Boise.  Meridian has become a full fledged member of the property taxpayer abuse program called Urban Renewal.  Idaho Code 59-514 (personal services) requires a 15 day posting of this intent in the legal ads in the local paper.  MDC, like other urban renewal agencies, operates in a blatant manner outside the laws of Idaho and get away with it.  There aren't any sanctions!

Meridian officials defend legislative candidate’s business contract  

When the contracted administrator of an urban renewal agency (URA) is awarded a separate contract to operate a business venture owned, in part, by the same URA, is it a conflict of interest?  That’s precisely the question in the city of Meridian, where the administrator for the Meridian Development Corporation (MDC) also manages the Ground Floor business incubator.

Shaun Wardle is the owner of V&G Ventures, which was contracted by the MDC to serve as the administrator for the URA.  According to records obtained by the Idaho Freedom Foundation, V&G is paid roughly $125,000 annually.  “We do really everything, in terms of processing paperwork, records management, financial planning, strategic planning, project execution, acting as the team that administrates the overall operation of the development corporation,” said Wardle.

In addition to being the administrator of the MDC, Wardle is also the president and CEO of the Idaho Athletic Club in Meridian, and a Republican candidate for the state House of Representatives in District 20.

V&G was contracted to manage the Ground Floor business incubator, after the previous management company dropped out of its agreement with the city last February.  “It was a quick transition we were in,” said Larry Lipschultz, chairman of the MDC board of directors. “There was a period, over a couple of days, where the owners of Venga Works (the previous management company) fired the president of the company and decided they didn’t want to be in that business anymore.”   Crunched for time, the MDC offered V&G $3,000 per month to manage the Ground Floor until Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. 
In the meantime, Lipschultz said the MDC will decide how to handle soliciting bids to run the Ground Floor in the next fiscal year.  V&G employs an agent at the Ground Floor to manage and market the incubator, as well as do paperwork, and collect rent.
Legally speaking, one Boise attorney doesn’t’ think the MDC is doing anything wrong by contracting Wardle’s company to run the Ground Floor.  “I don’t know that you can necessarily assume there’s a conflict of interest by having one company administer two contracts,” said former Idaho Attorney General David Leroy.  “Merely having a single entity administer two public-related contracts doesn’t constitute anything.”  Leroy added that while Wardle’s company might have a competitive advantage when the time came for the URA to award the contract for FY2011, any incumbent company would enjoy that advantage.
But ethically speaking, was it right for the MDC to give the contract to V&G without giving other companies the opportunity to compete for the business?  According to Les Merritt, executive director with the Foundation for Ethics in Public Service, such situations have at least an appearance of impropriety.  “On the surface, it doesn’t sound like a good idea.  We’ve seen a pattern, when it comes to economic development commissions, of almost ‘insider trading’ so to speak.”
Wardle doesn't think there's a conflict of interest at all, that the arrangement struck between the MDC and his company was a quick reaction to a problematic situation that arose suddenly.  "The negotiation there was to get a short-term solution in place, then the board could re-evaluate what would happen."

But Merritt said when time is of the essence, that's precisely when public agencies should slow down and not make snap decisions.  "If it seems like you've got to do something today, or someone is putting pressure on you to do something, that's when you'd better back away and take a harder look.  Maybe bring in some more people, and get some transparency on the issue."
MDC board member and Meridian City Councilman Keith Bird said hiring V&G Ventures as a contractor rather than taking Wardle on as an employee was a cost-savings measure.  “We just give them (V&G) a set amount, which I like.  With an employee, you gotta pay benefits and everything that goes with it, this way we just have a set amount.”
But that could also open the door to impropriety, or at least the appearance of it, said Merritt.  “Every case would be different, but it’s possible that someone could structure it (a contract arrangement) so they would have an opportunity to get other contracts also.  That’s what you kind of have to worry about.”

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Caldwell Override Election Tuesday May 18th

This is a reminder about the school override election for Caldwell School District.  Your polling place will be at a school near your home.

Here's the deal,  your vote will decide if the override will increase by 300% or not at all for the next two years. Nobody really knows what will happen two years out if the economy will pick up and return to better times or not.  What then will happen with the school district.  Will we face another override or will painful cuts be made due a stagnant economy?

We think making the effort to vote YES or No is the only voice you have in our form of government.  If your side wins you can celebrate and if it loses you can commiserate about it.  Those who don't take the time can't complain one way or the other.

Voting on this is taxation with representation by none other than those who take the time to actually vote.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Caldwell Urban Renewal Sucks Up Majority of UR Property Taxes In Canyon County

It has been reported to THE GUARDIAN by a reliable source $9.8 MM dollars are siphoned off the property taxes collected in Canyon County for 2009.  Caldwell East Urban Renewal received about $6 million of the money and the remaining $3.8 million went to Nampa and other UR agencies in the county.

What was really interesting is the data nailed down just how much each taxpayer outside of the urban renewal districts is getting charged by Urban Renewal county wide.  The total levy UR has on every $100K of taxable value in the county is $114.12 per $100k of taxable value.

The "high priests" of urban renewal keep telling us UR is money that is no cost to taxpayers.  We welcome these folks to explain how $114.12 per $100K of taxable value for of 2009 is not a cost to property taxpayers.

You will soon be receiving your new assessed values on your property for 2010 and can now figure out how much Urban Renewal is costing you personally.  Those inside the district pay even more money and they know how much via their tax bills.

The point of all this is UR is a $9.8 MM tax shift all county taxpayers get to pay for along with all the revenue bonding (debt) these agencies will take on with the "easy pay plan" for additional millions. Mayor Tom Dale in Nampa has to most ambitious plans with his new police HQ and library projects.  The principal will be around  $68 million if he holds the line where it was when the Nampa Development Corporation was formed.  You have to love the names given to agencies that are nothing short of taxation without representation.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

No Wonder Sen. Crapo Doesn't Like Financial Reform Bills He Loves Bankers, Bonds And Debt


Crapo Seeks Law To Increase Local Debt Load

Idaho Senior Senator Mike Crapo is pushing to make it easier for Idaho’s local governments to get deeper in debt by making cash available to banks, but he fails to mention Idaho cities have to ask permission of voters BEFORE going to the banks.
Those loans from local banks have to be repaid through higher local taxes. Idaho’s constitution mandates that those whose pocketbooks will be picked have to give their assent.
Crapo and Senator Jeff Bingaman–a Dem from New Mexico–talk about “permanently extending a provision that helps small and rural municipal governments raise capital to finance local infrastructure projects – including school and road construction.”
Instead of “raising capital,” the new law would only serve to raise taxes to pay for increased debt. As the GUARDIAN sees it, Crapo’s bill would make “easy money” available to banks, but local governments still have to pay off the increased debt and the only way to do that is raise taxes.
There are three proposed constitutional amendments on the November Idaho ballot aimed at abolishing the rights of citizens to vote on such debt for public hospitals, airports, and power facilities.
A Crapo spokesman said the Senior Sen would respect all Idaho laws and not seek to influence the outcome of the proposed constitutional amendments.
Here’s more from the Senior Sen.

Before 2009, banks had incentives to purchase municipal bonds only from municipalities that issue $10 million or less in debt each year – a level that was unchanged since 1986. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act incorporated a provision pushed by Bingaman and Crapo to raise that limit to $30 million, but that measure expires at the end of this year. The Bingaman-Crapo Municipal Bond Market Support Act of 2010 would make the $30 million level permanent, and index it for inflation.
The increased level has so far enabled municipalities from across the country to place bonds directly at financial institutions, including community banks. When municipal governments work directly with community banks, they achieve considerable savings on interest and transaction costs.
“This provision has helped small communities across New Mexico and the country finance critical infrastructure needs and create jobs. The higher bank-qualified limit is a great success and deserves to be made permanent. We need to ensure that our small municipalities can continue to raise capital, particularly in periods of tight credit,” Bingaman said.
“As our small communities continue to struggle to secure financing for important infrastructure improvement projects, our efforts last year have proven successful in Idaho and throughout the country. I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Bingaman and my colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee to extend these important provisions,” Crapo said.
In 2009, the dollar amount of bank qualified issuances doubled to $32.7 billion, with nearly 6,000 issuances. Among the beneficiaries are New Mexico and Idaho counties, cities, and school districts in all corners of the states.
At least 13 organizations have expressed support for the Municipal Bond Market Support Act of 2010. They are as follows:
American Hospital Association
Council of Development Finance Agencies
Government Finance Officers Association
International City/County Management Association
National Association of Bond Lawyers
National Association of College and University Business Officers
National Association of Counties
National Association of Health and Educational Facilities Authorities
National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers
National League of Cities
Regional Bond Dealers Association
Securities Industry and Financial Market Association
US Conference of Mayors
The bill has been sent to the Senate Finance Committee; both Bingaman and Crapo are members of that panel.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Reader Opinion About Caldwell School Levy Election May 18th

This is blog opinion that was posted as a link in a Guardian post about school levy elections.  We clicked on the link and found this post to be informative and worth posting here for our readers. We welcome opinions in support of the levy and will give any writer space to respond.

"While we can all agree how important public education is as an investment for the future, the Caldwell School District’s solution to their budget crisis leans too heavily on the property tax payer. The district administration suggests that they will have to deal with a $1.9 million shortfall and that the employees will take a 4.5% hit but the property taxpayer will get hit with nearly a 300% increase. (The current levy is $900,000 and the proposed levy if approved will be $2,750,000) Most folks would not consider that a fair situation.
As a former leader in the Caldwell School District, I would have found it embarrassing if our school board had asked patrons to support an increase in their supplemental property tax charge of 3 times when those patrons are dealing with the same economic realities as schools. It is reported that the increase will go from $71 per $100,000 of value to $208 per $100,000 of value. When there are many patrons of the district unemployed or having to face salary deduction themselves, it is no time to ask them to pay a huge increase in their school supplemental property tax levy. In addition, the district plans to increase their plant facilities levy by over 16% or $50,000 per year, without any justification. Now is not the time for any increase.
Before the election day in May the school board must demonstrate to the Caldwell School District patrons clearly and publicly what they have done to cut costs before they decided to ask the voters for more money, including but not limited to what non-essential positions they have eliminated. There are some of these positions in every school district. Every non-teaching position should be on the “list “ for possible elimination. Also, the District board of Trustees needs to explain to the patrons why a 16% increase in the plant facilities levy is essential at this time. Finally, and very importantly, what is the long-range plan for this escalated supplemental levy? Is it a temporary 2-year levy until state revenues return or is it planned that this historic increase simply becomes part of the on-going tax charge on the Caldwell School District property taxpayers? The Board owes their constituents a thorough explanation why all of these increases are necessary and their long-range plans for the supplemental levy.
Historically the Caldwell School District has supported their schools by approving a supplemental levy for nearly 50 consecutive years. Now it appears that they are going to put that tremendous record at risk. Some consideration might be given to the comment made recently by the neighboring school superintendent from Vallivue when he stated, ““We don’t want to raise taxes on our taxpayers for the years and years and years that they’ve supported us on these levies.” Good point!"

Can Civic Pride Be Legislated And Does City Council Have Any Political Will

Caldwell has a Historic Preservation Board, Commission and a Historic District.  Neglect and dilapidation of property in Caldwell is not a new issue.  It would appear the Historic Preservation people are trying to give civic pride in our fair city a new thrust with the "WILLFUL NEGLECT ORDINANCE" effort.

The Caldwell City Council appears to be reacting like a stopped clock on this matter, ie you can do absolutely nothing and be right at least twice a day.

Here is a smattering of the stuff of high importance the City Council is trying to digest:


"Mr. Billingsley passed out copies of Bill 10, Ordinance 2825 to the Council which contains three items
sought by the Historic Preservation Commission. The first item deals with fencing standards; the
Commission would like to have the ability to review picket fencing materials that are not made of wood.

Secondly, they would like the ability to require a Certificate of Appropriateness when a wheelchair ramp isbuilt or altered on a historic building.

The third item deals with creating a process to abate a situation where a property owner is willfully neglecting a historic property. Mr. Billingsley explained that City Code prohibits willful neglect of a historic property, but the code does not establish a process to correct the situation. He proposed a code amendment that would give the property owner a chance to appear before the Historic Preservation Commission and work a plan of action to clear up the code violation. If the property does not follow
through with the plan of action, the Commission could send a formal recommendation to the City Council to proceed with legal action.

Several Councilmen stated their concerns about the ordinance. First, Councilman Oates stated that he would not vote for the amendment. Councilman Sobba wondered how staff would be able to determine if a property is being willfully neglected.

Councilman Blacker asked if a definition of willful neglect is in the zoning ordinance.

Councilman Hopper asked if staff could enforce such a process city-wide rather than
just on historic properties.

Elaine Carpenter, representing the Commission, stated that the Commission wants to work with property owners to make their buildings look respectable. She said it is not a goal of the Commission to harass property owners; the amendment would establish a process where staff and the commission can work together to clean up a historic building.

Mike Dittenber from the Caldwell Housing Authority spoke about programs under his direction that could be helpful to the Historic District. He stated that he has the ability to subpoena witnesses and investigate housing dilapidation matters.

Mr. Billingsley suggested that the public hearing for the Willful Neglect ordinance be continued to May 17th. He will discuss the workshop with the Commission before the meeting on the 17th......."

Civic pride in Caldwell is something that is not a commodity not found in abundant surplus and the same can be said for a lot of other cities. The Historic Commission proposal should be something enforced city-wide per Councilman Hopper's input on this matter.

Caldwell's code enforcement program needs to be enhanced with an eye toward addressing "willful neglect" city-wide.  Conditions  called willful neglect are the face we present to the people who live here as well as those passing through our city. Civic pride while hard to legislate is worth the effort.

 We would like to see a summary abatement program added to the WILLFUL NEGLECT ORDINANCE.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB's) For Govt. Employees May Bankrupt Cities

Here is some troubling news for just about everyone. I received notification from my employer via disclosure requirements their retirement program is underfunded. Now add to this the below we received from a reader:

I was in training the past couple days and we talked quite a bit about OPEB (other post employment benefits). Right now as far as the accounting profession is concerned that has the highest probability of bankrupting local and municipal governments in the next few years. The underlying fundamental concept is the implied rate subsidy that is provided by allowing retirees to participate in government health care plans. Since they’re older they cost more to insure and drive the rates up for the plan as a whole. It’s a recent development that governments have had to start recognizing the liability in the past few years. As the baby boomers retire over the next few years this could easily push the liability so high that the overall fund balance goes negative and the local government then may proceed with bankruptcy as I understand it.


Caldwell School Bond Cost will be about $10-$20/month? How Is This Figured

A comment was left on a previous post about how the Caldwell School District override will cost property taxpayers $10-$20/month and how is that calculated.  I will try to answer this as it can get confusing for a lot of taxpayers.

There are two components to arrive at your actual property taxes you are obligated to pay.  It is the levy rate and the assessed value of your property.  Throw in the exemption of 50% of the assessed value up to a  maximum of $104K if you house is assessed high enough and you arrive at a taxable amount on your home.

 Your home is valued at $200K by the County Assessor,  less 50% homeowner exemption brings the value down to $100k of actual taxable value..  In general, you can apply about 2% to the $100k and your property taxes will be $2,000.00 in the City of Caldwell  before the school levy is applied.

If the school levy adds another $136.00/$100K of taxable value your property taxes will rise to $2136.00.  In the comment the reader wanted to know how the additional $10-$20/month is figured.  In this example, the additional taxes per month would be $136.00 divided by 12 months equals $11.33 per month tax increase for this particular example.

We will all getting our new assessed values on our properties right after the May primary election.  You should be able to figure the increased taxes very easily when you get this information.  Some people will be more and some less.  The higher your assessed value the more you will pay.

The Caldwell school override election will be held on Tuesday, May 18th, 2010 at a school near you if you live in the Caldwell School District 132.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Just What Has Urban Renewal Done For Caldwell Downtown

This was received as a reader comment and we would like to see this comment read by our readers.  We once again give you the link to the Canyon County Assessor's page on Urban Renewal.  It is worth a read by those who do not understand UR

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Another Downtown Caldwell Business Closes Doors":
So the task that lies ahead of the informed citizens of Caldwell is 'What will the catalyst be for change in Caldwell.' How do the un- or mis-informed become aware of the fact that the well has run dry in Caldwell? The very plan that was inmplimented to correct the course of downtown Caldwell by eliminating blithe has become the very same plan that is crushing this community into a blithe full wasteland.

To those paying double the taxes on thier property taxes vs last year, the writing is on the wall. There is no demand for tenants in the downtown district due to no services or foot traffic, the property values have plummeted to the point that it makes no business sense to throw good money at bad money by renovation of the buildings, and the shear number of vacant buildings has obliverated the resale market. 

And yet, at the end of the day, Caldwell's voters continue to drink the Nancolas kool aid and either can't see past the mis information or simply don't care. The milk and cookies, great day for Caldwell speech continues to keep the current administration in office, all the while promises of a new day in Caldwell plan o the month tactics have absolutely zero financial backing to support the effort, thus making even the most well thought out concepts doomed to fail.

What will it take? Your guess is as good as mine. 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Another Downtown Caldwell Business Closes Doors

We received the following press release from the good people who run the Sundowner Motel. A more apt headline for this post would be "ANOTHER ONE HITS THE DUST". Closing of the Sundowner Motel along with King's, Departure of the South West District Health Department will leave people giving directions the only option but to use vacant buildings as landmarks for directions downtown. Mayor Nancolas and thirteen years of his leadership are not turning things around in our downtown despite speeches and press releases to the contrary.

Caldwell is the county seat of Canyon County and the Mayor and City Council lack the political will to make downtown Caldwell the county civic center nor are they following the Comprehensive Plan for Caldwell calling for government offices to be located in downtown.

We have witnessed the Job Service Building locating in Sky Ranch Business Park, County License Offices move to Graye Lane, SW District Health move to Karcher Road. Caldwell will eventually be a series of stop lights that will interfere with people trying to get to I-84.

Caldwell East Urban Renewal Agency has failed our downtown core and chose to spend the bulk of urban renewal funds on just about everything but our downtown core. Downtown property owners have to feel like they have been stiffed in this deal.

Here is the abbreviated press release for the Sundowner Motel:

On May 2, 2010 Sundowner Inc. ceased operating the Sundowner Motel in Caldwell Idaho. The difficult decision was made by the board of directors after 48 years of business in downtown Caldwell

Formerly the site of the McNeel Lumber Company, the Sundowner Motel is an example of the American Dream come true. A young Bob Bushnell moved from lumber-yard clerk to owner of the property, and among other business ventures, converted the property to a motel in 1962. Bob had a vision of the downtown that integrated Indian creek into the architecture of the building, and was proud to be one of the first business to feature the creek as a part of our community.

The Motel has played host to many visitors to downtown Caldwell including dignitaries, athletic teams, world-class cowboys, a professional banjo club, County Fair and 4H contestants. Even the dog known as “Lassie” took advantage of our pet-friendly hospitality! Of all of our guests, we are most proud that we provided a clean, comfortable, and affordable place for guests visiting family, professionals conducting business in our community, and some of the interesting people we’ve met who were “just passing through” that chose to stay a night or two downtown with us.

The Sundowner Motel has been a fixture in the community and a champion for the spirit of a thriving downtown.

We’ve turned off our large “MOTEL” sign – but we are excited to continue with our corporate operations in the community. If you would like to be informed of our future sales of furniture and assets, please sign up for our mailing list by emailing with the word “subscribe” in the subject line.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Give Legislators Your Right to Senate Vote?

Sen. Borah

An old proverb among politicos: “Power corrupts and absolute power is REALLY COOL if you’re the one with the power!” A particulary worrisome bit of news came out of a recent Idaho Tea Party survey of national candidates and an Idaho Public TV interview/debate on IDAHO REPORTS.

Republican 1st District Congressional candidates Raul Labrador and Vaughn Ward both support a move to abolish the right of citizens to elect their U.S. Senators through repeal of the 17th amendment. They would rather the state legislature choose the U.S. senators.

The amendment was historically the product of unrest among citizens who were unhappy with state politicos appointing their own party hacks instead of allowing the citizens to vote directly for senators.

The 17th amendment ultimately passed Congress in 1913 and was introduced in 1911 by Senator Joseph L. Bristow of Kansas and, supported by Senator William Borah of Idaho, himself a product of direct election.