On February 15, the Post Register’s Editorial Board wrote, “IFDP needs a new station,” which advocated for a new police station. The Idaho Falls Police Department probably deserves a new building but, because of high spending by city officials and lack of prioritization, money is tight. If only the city had prioritized building a new police station, there would be enough funding to get it done. If city officials had only sacrificed pet projects, they could have made the station happen.
Over the last couple years, the Idaho Falls Redevelopment Agency (IFRA) spent $5.8 million on a business development on the corner of Memorial Drive and Broadway. IFRA also spent $1.5 million to purchase the downtown Bonneville Hotel. When IFRA spends tax revenues, it takes away from the city budget so the tax revenues can’t be used on city projects.
There are three other projects the city has put first over city necessities. The city spent $600,000 putting up points-of-interest signs to educate residents and tourists alike. The city council budget includes $130,000 dedicated to non-profit organizations. Idaho Falls taxpayers are also on the hook for the hundreds of thousands of dollars facilities such as the aquatic center and the ice rink lose every year. Though these amounts certainly wouldn’t have covered the full cost of a new police station, altogether they could contribute a significant portion toward such a facility.
Just like it is important for a family to prioritize necessities in their budget, Idaho Falls city officials should spend the city’s resources on items that fulfill the government’s proper role. An example would be if an individual purchased a new car or cable TV before paying rent and groceries. What good is a new car if there isn’t enough money for housing? It is the same as a city. What good are frivolous projects when there are not sufficient funds to pay for a new police station?
If city officials were fiscally conservative with public funds, it would be easier to justify building a new police station. However, failure to prioritize the police station due to unnecessary government involvement in pet projects results in insufficient funds for a key city function, such as public safety. For example, a new police station, which is essential to maintain public safety, is such a key function of city government.
The Post Register editorial suggested one way to fund a new police station: “Don’t be shocked if the only realistic possibility is for the city to float a bond.” If a bond measure were passed, local taxpayers would be forced to pay more in taxes. Because building a new station for the police department was not prioritized, it is becoming a bigger issue. It’s unfair to the department and unfair to taxpayers.
Rather than increase the tax burden, city officials should focus tax revenues away from economic development projects and towards a new police station. City officials must be more fiscally responsible. They need to sacrifice their own wants and desires and give up pet projects. If they do that, it would be affordable to build a new station.