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What the watchdog sniffed out this week

What the watchdog sniffed out this week

Lindsay Atkinson
September 13, 2018
September 13, 2018

Hello! I’m Lindsay Atkinson, the new Local Government Policy Analyst for the Idaho Freedom Foundation. I oversee the Save Our Cities program, so I keep an eye on cities, counties, and school districts across Idaho. Every week I find many actions that support liberty and others that do not. Below are a few recent local government actions of interest from across the state.

COEUR D’ALENE. Council officials and staff actively worked to find savings in their FY19 budget. They saved city residents from a 2.25% property tax increase. Most of the savings came from the decision to cut a city pavement-sealing program, which would have hired two employees and required the purchase of new equipment. City council member Dan Gookin asserted “government [shouldn't be] doing what can better be done by private enterprise.”

NAMPA/KOOTENAI COUNTY. Both the city of Nampa and Kootenai County disclaimed their foregone revenue for FY19. This means future officials cannot claw back the tax monies that the city councilors and county commissioners chose not to collect for this fiscal year; thus, the elected officials provided a true tax decrease for residents, instead of just a delayed collection.

ADA/CANYON COUNTY. The board of trustees for CWI voted to place a $39 million levy on the November 6 ballot. This levy would increase property taxes for Canyon and Ada County residents for 10 years, in order to build a new health science building.

CANYON COUNTY. The county is considering a raise of commissioner salaries to $94,501. This increase comes a year after their last salary raise, from $83,601 to the current $92,647. The county justified last year’s $9,046 salary raise as necessary to attract the best candidates. Commissioners justify this year’s $2,000 salary increase as a cost of living measure. This comes the same year the commissioners approved the collection of $2.3 million in foregone revenue.

NEZ PERCE COUNTY. Sheriff Joe Rodriguez is withholding county payment to the Idaho Transportation Department for drivers license services. This decision came as the state has been plagued for months with frequent shutdowns of its modernized licensing system.

ADA COUNTY HIGHWAY DISTRICT. The Idaho attorney general found that ACHD Commissioner Hansen violated Idaho’s open meeting laws via email communications. The emails discussed, among other items, an upcoming ballot measure. The attorney general’s reasoning regarding the violation: The communications formed a quorum and thus constituted a meeting, which was not open to the public. The attorney general also found that Commissioner Goldthorpe violated open meeting laws because he forwarded said emails to the other commissioners’ personal email accounts. In a subsequent meeting, ACHD Commissioners Baker and Arnold voted to respond to the attorney general’s letter, asserting their opinion that Goldthorpe’s involvement did not violate the law and that the responsibility for Hansen’s punishment lies with the attorney general and not the commissioners. Commissioner Woods voted against the response. Hansen and Goldthorpe recused themselves from the meeting.

BOISE SCHOOL DISTRICT. Less than four percent of eligible voters participated in the September 4 trustee election. September 4 is an election date unique to this school district. Of recent, special election dates have received increased scrutiny due to low voter turnout. At four percent turnout, this election was no exception.

TWIN FALLS SCHOOL DISTRICT. The district board approved a $2.5 million emergency levy to cover the cost of increased enrollment during the current academic year. But this emergency levy came on the same night that the school board heard an update showing the increase in enrollment numbers matches what had been predicted. And the money provided by the emergency levy is set to cover salary costs of teachers already hired. School districts across Idaho are increasingly raising taxes through emergency levies, which do not need voter approval.

What is your local government doing that should be highlighted? Please comment below and let us know. Thank you!

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