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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

You Pay For Urban Renewal No Matter Where You Live In Canyon County

THE COST OF URBAN RENEWAL IN CANYON COUNTY (every property owner in the county gets to pay for urban renewal, even if you don't live in a defined UR district)

I was recently asked what the cost of Urban Renewal was in Canyon County. The results of the research are as follows:

If you are a taxpayer living in the County and not within the cities of Caldwell, Nampa or Middleton your property taxes per $100,000.00 of assessed value are *$88.41 higher than they would be if Caldwell, Nampa and Middleton were not using your tax dollars for Urban Renewal Projects.

If you live within Caldwell your property taxes per *$100,000.00 of assessed value are $210.14 higher than they would be if Caldwell was not using your tax dollars for Urban Renewal Projects, and when the county share of the 3 districts $88.41 is added the taxes are then $298.55 per $100,000.00

If you live within Nampa your property taxes per $100,000.00 of assessed value are $37.46 higher than they would be if Nampa was not using your tax dollars for Urban Renewal Projects, , and when the county share of the 3 districts $88.41is added the taxes are then $125.87 per $100,000.00

If you live in Middleton your property taxes per $100,000.00 of assessed value are $4.75 higher than they would be if Middleton was not using your tax dollars for Urban Renewal Project, , and when the county share of the 3 districts $88.41 is added the taxes are then $93.16 per $100,000

Total of your taxes paid to Urban Renewal Agencies in Canyon County during 2010 is $9,980,268.13.

Average levies for FY 2010 were utilized in determining the tax amounts for the County and the Cities. The exact levy can only be determined by a property analysis, but would vary only slightly.

Sources are the Idaho State Tax Commission and the tax data from the Canyon County Assessors office.

EDITOR NOTE:  Here's a link to a great Our View Opinion piece in the IPT today Free YMCA passes for CEURA just look bad

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bankers and Wall Street Brokers To Face Federal Charges

It has taken nearly two years or more but we learned this weekend the federal government is going after bankers and stock brokers as early as this week for all the fraud and liar loans that nearly bankrupted our country during the past two years. 

Just like the Enron scandal and the Madoff fiasco the government has taken its sweet time to ferret out the people and charges.  This will make for some really fun stuff to watch on TV and will also be harsh enough to give other wannabes some insight into how the government may be slow but this time around the Bankers and Suits of Wall Street are finally headed to Club Fed for some serious time under lock and key.

We can't wait to see who gets swept up in this effort to give the federal courts a workout. Court TV will no doubt be covering this for those with cable TV.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sacred Cows Sacraficed Idaho Budget $300 Million Short

We read in our morning paper Idaho will face a shorfall of well over $300 Million for the next budget year. 

It doesn't take a genius to figure out a lot of "sacred cows" are going to get gored this year.  The obvious one nobody wants to talk about is education.  It is the largest part of the Idaho State Budget.  One elected representative threw out the idea that kindergarten will surely be one of the areas facing budget cuts to education this year.  I don't think property taxpayers are in any mood to pay more taxes to schools this year like they did last year.  We can expect a lot of noise over this issue.

Idaho Legislature has to come up with a balanced budget no matter how painful and how deep the cuts go this year.  Difficult choices face all areas of state government to cover the shortfall.  How this gets done will make for some great soundbites and discussion by all concerned citizens.

One section of the Idaho government THE GUARDIAN finds interesting is the State Liquor Dispensary.  The name sounds so sterile and sanitary when you say it out loud.  It is the 21st century and the name has such a antiquated ring to it.

Elected officials have to ask themselves why the state is in the retail liquor business.  All of the overhead associated with the liquor business could go away if the sales of liquor were handed over to private business.  Retail outlets could do business directly with distributors and we could eliminate the entire Liquor Dispensary, their retail operations, their staffs, warehouses and distribution vehicles.

We have never understood just how this antiquated system is a benefit of any kind to residents and taxpayers.  It is our suggestion this bit of nostalgia simply go away in 2011.  It would be a revenue neutral move to do away with this area of Idaho Government.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Reader Urban Renewal Resolution Response

Several frustrated downtown Caldwell business owners have offered up their response to CEURA's 2011-2 Resolution regarding the facade rework at 213-217 S. Kimball Avenue.

 Mayor Nancolas opined in the spring of 2008 at the dedicaton of Indian Creek, Urban Renewal Funds would be used to improve business facades in the downtown core on a matching dollar basis.

 Several business owners have tried to obtain funds for facade upgrades but ran into a brick wall and never got any funding.  Now we have CEURA funding a facade renewal on a building owned by CEURA and an extension of that work at no charge to the adjacent business owner.

Resolution 2011-2 for the facade rennovation work at 213-217 S. Kimball was passed after all the work was completed at a cost of $21,000.00 of your tax dollars.

The following resolution was a response by a downtown business property owner:

 Whereas, we purchased property on Main Street 8 years ago and whereas we have asked about improvement money several times and been told they would get back to us.

Whereas, there has there has been a mass commercial exodus from the downtown Caldwell core area.

Whereas, the city of Caldwell and the CEURA joined forces to purchase core area property at as much as twice their fair market value.

Whereas, said purchases were responsible for doubling to quadrupling property taxes on downtown Caldwell core area properties.

Whereas, the code requirements require expenditures that make it cost prohibitive to recover in rent when it is not a desirable area.

 Let it be known, that we now own property we can‘t bring up to code, can’t rent, and can’t sell….

The following is an excerpt from CEURA Minues 11.05.2010:

"#2 Consider Resolution 2011-2: Resolution #2011-2 authorizes CEURA to approve an agreement with Norman Jewelers to upgrade their commercial site in conjunction with the streetscape improvement program for downtown Caldwell. CEURA owns the building adjoining Norman Jewelers and desires to set an example to aesthetically improve the entire facilities by upgrading the exterior of the existing building by use of a new fa├žade design, signage and paint......"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Idaho Land Board Buys Self Storage for $2.7MM

By David R. Frazier, Boise Guardian

 The national president of the Self-storage Association in Washington, D.C.has asked the Idaho Land Board to curtail future purchases of retail storage businesses, investing instead in Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) specializing in self storage.

The letter to the board is dated November 5 and includes numerous questions and concerns about the practice of state-owned and operated businesses that are normally private. The letter was prompted by the GUARDIAN STORY which was picked up by AP.

A spokesman for the association told the GUARDIAN Idaho is the only state they know of that invests in and operates tax-exempt storage businesses. The group has secured an agreement with the Department of Defense to refrain from offering storage at Base and Post Exchanges (BX/PX) in competition with private facilities nearby. They would like a similar deal with Idaho.

THE LETTER FOLLOWS:

November 5, 2010

Mr. George Bacon

Director – Idaho Department of Lands ,Idaho Board of Land Commissioners
300 North 6th Street, Suite 103
Boise, Idaho 83720-0050

Dear Director Bacon & State Board of Land Commissioners,

We are writing to you on behalf of the national Self Storage Association, representing more than 32,000 operators and more than 46,000 self storage facilities nationwide; and the Idaho Self Storage Association representing approximately 450 facilities in the state. Our organizations are very concerned about both the direct unfair competitive circumstance and the general poor precedent that your state’s recent purchase of a self storage facility presents.

As has been the case with most real estate sectors during this recession, self
storage operators currently face significant challenges and have had to adjust their business operations to compete with each other during this difficult period. They understand fair competition and recognize that all industry businesses must also make similar difficult decisions as they relate to overhead, payroll, security, marketing, regulatory mandates and taxes.

The State of Idaho’s (Department of Land) purchase for $2.7 million of Affordable Self Storage, and the subsequent management of the facility, is a direct affront to our understanding of the clear distinctions between private/public activities. It is both unfair to the Idaho citizens who have established businesses in your state, and to the many consumers who currently and in the future will rent storage units from private operators at rates established based upon uniform operating dynamics.

Fair competition between companies that provide similar goods and services usually benefits consumers through lower prices and superior products. Any government-run facility which, for example, is not required to remit property taxes, upsets this standard. Government projects that duplicate services that are readily available in the private sector not only unnecessarily increase the size of state government, but directly compete with main street businesses that pay the taxes which support that government.

Not only is the practice of your state government directly competing with private storage operators unfair to those private operators, we feel it will be unfair to the citizen/consumers of Idaho. History has clearly demonstrated that when governments enter traditionally private-sector areas the quality of those products and services deteriorate.

We have many questions about this immediate situation and any other future plans for the government to enter the private sector:

- Could you please describe for us the acquisition process via which Affordable Self Storage was purchased?

- Were private sector entities given the opportunity to make offers on the
Affordable Self Storage property? If so, did the state “outbid” these private
operators utilizing the considerable Idaho Endowment Trust Lands treasure chest?

- How will your new government-owned self storage facility compensate municipal governments if you are not required to pay property taxes? (Local property taxes typically account for 30% to 35% of the operating expenses for a self storage facility).

- How will the tax dollars lost to the local county, city and school district be
replaced? (Conservatively, we estimate that property taxes remitted from our
industry in your state exceed several million dollars). The government should not be in competition with its taxpayer base.

- If the state-owned facility does not pay property taxes, how will the state
establish rental rates? If these rates are based upon operating expenses that do not include the same property tax expenses as private sector owner/operators, will your pricing be discernibly cheaper, thus undercutting private competing operators?

- Does the State of Idaho plan on continuing the practice of purchasing private self storage businesses?

Our memberships are made up of honest, taxpaying businesses that do not deserve this unfair competition which could threaten their livelihood and investments. These businesses have invested in your state and should not be required to cope with unfair and unwanted government-intrusion or murky acquisition practices. We encourage the Department of Lands to divest itself of this facility in a fair process and refrain from this practice in the future.

We respectfully recommend to the state that, if it wants to invest in self storage, it should look into purchasing shares of one of the four publicly traded Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) in our industry. Thank you for your prompt response to our concerns.

Sincerely,
Michael T. Scanlon, Jr.
President & CEO
Self Storage Association

For:
Richard Church, President
Idaho Self Storage Association

License Renewal Online Cheap and Easy

The good people at ITD are sending out your renewal notices for "TOYS" and we received ours today.  The tags for your "TOYS" are annual tags and go calendar year to calendar year.

We would encourage you to check out the cheap and easy way to renew your tags online.  It is a very easy and user friendly way to take care of these and any other vehicle license tag renewals.  You will need the card ITD sent you, your drivers license number and a valid credit card to complete the process.

The really cool part of this the cost! I did two motorcycles today and the online processing fee was $0.70/each.  So, for about the price of a half gallon of gasoline I didn't have to go to the local Canyon County License Office, wait in line and kill off at least an hour of my day. Here's the link ITD DMV . You will receive your tags in short order via USPS and can print a receipt out to show payment in the meantime should the need arise.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

AG Says No Laws Violated by Urban Renewal Board and Mayor

Results of an eight month Attorney General’s investigation of Caldwell East Urban Renewal will not result in criminal charges, but it does point out serious flaws and defects in existing Idaho urban renewal laws.  Link to orininal post Audit Of Caldwell Urban Renewal Imperative


The investigation by the AG was requested by former Canyon County Prosecutor, John Bujak--before he became subject of criminal and civil investigations.  Mr. Bujak forwarded the allegations of misuse of public funds after Caldwell GUARDIAN Paul Alldredge discovered what can only be termed “irregulatiries” in the Caldwell East Urban Renewal Agency’s check register.

The AG's investigation efforts centered on three areas:

--Payment of inflated prices for property purchased by CEURA well beyond appraised value

--Payment of $150,000 to the YMCA on behalf of select employers to help fund sagging memberships at the YMCA

--Personal membership payments for CEURA board members and Mayor Nancolas in the YMCA


 AG investigators said urban renewal law does not forbid paying more than appraised value for property and "relocation costs" are expressly permitted in the wide powers granted to urban renewal agencies.  Relocation costs were paid even when there was no business relocations as happened in some cases of urban renewal agency property acquisitions.

Most glaring, was a full family YMCA membership for Caldwell Mayor Garret Nancolas.  Other board members of the urban renewal board also received YMCA membership payments. The AG, in a letter to recently appointed Canyon County Prosecutor Bryan Taylor, said the memberships appeared on the face to be criminal because use of public money for a private purpose is a clear violation of the law.

The letter went on to say that upon further inspection “there is a reasonable argument to be made that the memberships were paid in order to facilitate CEURA’s inspection of the YMCA’s facilities.”

That conclusion is absurd! It is simply beyond comprehension of any reasonable person to think the YMCA would NOT allow inspection of the private facilities which are funded by MILLIONS of public dollars without a family membership for the mayor and CEURA board members paid by the citizens of Caldwell.

The AG letter mildly chastised the board saying, “Regardless of the stated reason, CEURA’s board members should have been aware of the potential for their conduct to be illegal. Similarly, government officials should be cognizant of appearances of such relationships, and reject any “perk” offered them, particularly those offered by entities subject to their regulation.”

The AG didn’t challenge the facts of the alleged actions. The office concluded there was just no grounds for prosecution of the first two allegations, noting CEURA had a “broad grant of authority” to protect its investment in the YMCA.” Since they concluded there was no “private benefit” to a public officer, the expenditure of public funds to benefit the private club was within the law.

In summation, the AG concluded legislative relief might be appropriate to correct issues brought forth in the complaint.