In addition to casting a vote for the next president of the United States, Meridian voters will have the chance Tuesday to fight off three separate tax increases. With interest, the three bond measures total more than $300 million.
Call it the tax-hike trifecta.
Three separate government entities -- the College of Western Idaho, the Western Ada Recreation District and the Meridian Library District -- want voters to approve bonds to fund new building projects.
The CWI bond measure tops the heap, asking voters for more than $180 million upfront, with interest the sum is $258 million. The 25-year bond would fund a health sciences and central services facility, an academic professional center and a career technical building.
Next, the Western Ada Recreation District, or WARD, wants voters to approve $20 million -- or nearly $27 million after interest -- to build two new pools for YMCA facilities.
The Meridian Library District wants $12 million -- or more than $17.1 million after interest -- to construct two new library branches.
The library and recreation district bonds would last 20 years.
All told, the three government’s seek a collective $302 million from taxpayers. Some of those who would be forced to foot the bill aren’t thrilled about the prospect.
Meridian City Councilor Ty Palmer objects to the nature of the projects. Palmer, a first-term council member, said, “Public debt for non-life-safety projects is irresponsible.”
Steve Porter, a retiree who moved to Meridian from Garden City more than eight years ago, worries about the possible tax hikes. “I’m a retiree on a fixed income,” he said. “The homeowners just can’t foot the bill for this stuff all the time.”
Combined, the three tax proposals would add $42 a year per $100,000 of a home’s assessed values. That’s on top of taxes that are already increasing thanks to the Treasure Valley’s rising property values.
Of course, the proposals have their proponents.
Joel Kennedy, a 12-year Meridian resident and U.S. Navy retiree, supports all three requests.
“Meridian's recent and projected growth call for an expansion of traditional public infrastructure, such as libraries and recreational facilities,” Kennedy said. “Investing now when bond interest rates are low makes sense.”
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, along with a number of Treasure Valley mayors have endorsed the CWI bond, and Meridian Mayor Tammy DeWeerd used city resources to plump for the YMCA’s pools.
Other public figures have been critical of the proposals. Idaho Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman questioned the library and YMCA pool projects. Talk-radio host Nate Shelman also expressed concerns about the pool project during a recent show.
To pass, each bond measure will need support from two-thirds of those who vote.