Sunday, January 8, 2012
Urban Renewal is very similar to "EARMARKS" in the way it is administered. The IPT had a question to all county legislators in the Sunday paper about any possible plans to fix urban renewal laws in Idaho. It is clear most legislators do not get the inherent problems with urban renewal. Yes, there were some changes to the laws this past session in 2011 but it remains a government entity without accountability or oversight of taxpayers who get stuck paying the bills for these "earmarks".
Nearly $55 million gets spent by these agencies for all manner of things that would not pass muster with voters if put to a bond election each year in Idaho. Additionally, commissioners of urban renewal boards are appointed and answer to nobody for their actions with our tax dollars. Newly appointed Rep. Gayle Batt appears to have a very good handle on fixes needed. Commissioners for these agencies should stand for election just like trustees for College of Western Idaho, local school boards, highway districts, etc.
Urban renewal taxes impact every county and city taxpayer even when they aren't in the UR district. Property taxes siphoned off by UR have to be made up to pay for all the things property taxes support like schools, city and county taxes, police, fire and other essential public services. This gets done via higher and higher levy rates for all county property owners. Property taxes are so high now that most taxing districts are into a "cap" on taxes along with levy rates perceived to be outrageous to most taxpayers.
Urban Renewal tax dollars are thrown around at all manner of pop-up-targets over the lives of the agencies. Money thrown around by these agencies become nothing more than a gateway drug to corruption by the givers and takers of this money.
Urban renewal has created a culture of developers, businesses and other entities knocking at the doors of these agencies with their hands out for money to sweeten their projects. All this has led to growth not paying for itself and downloading growth costs onto all county taxpayers. Caldwell and Nampa have such high property taxes it has reached the point investors are reluctant to invest in our communities due to these onerous and ongoing tax burdens. They can go one foot inside Ada County and the tax structure is 30-40% less.
In Caldwell we have over $10 million going to the YMCA, at least $7 million or more to TVCC, a college that is redundant to CWI. CEURA meeting minutes show a number of developers collecting millions to hundreds of thousands for their projects. In Nampa we have a $14.5 million police station built with no voter approval and a $30+million library going in next without voter approval. In Boise a million dollar gift to the developer who has taken over the "Big Hole" project, the Ada County Courthouse for nearly $100 million, in Rexburg a $7million swiming pool project are some examples.
The challenge to Legislators is to scrap this ill conceived set of laws and get back to voter approved bond elections for all these projects. Concentrated power of UR agencies in the hands of a few people has given us all manner of goofy things. The best local example is the Idaho Center. It remains a project that can't pay its way and is a millstone around the necks of Nampa taxpayers.
Urban Renewal laws in Idaho stand in complete juxtaposition to the Idaho Constitution Artilcle VIII sec. 3 requiring 2/3rds majority of voter approval for nearly all things going beyond one budget cycle. Cities are using UR as way around voters and abuses are numerous.
Here's a link to the IPT Legialator story: http://www.idahopress.com/news/local/idaho-lawmakers-prepare-for-legislative-session/article_e1909462-39ca-11e1-9a61-001871e3ce6c.html
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 12:10 PM