Showing Us the Money

Mayor, city council haggle over mid-term budget


You may notice more cops and locally-funded buses on the streets if Boise Mayor Dave Bieter gets the nod of approval he needs to move forward on his budget plan. But as the city council and the mayor go into two days of budget talks this week, you can expect a few questions about how Boise spends its money.

And there's a lot of it: Tax revenue increases are helping the 2007 general budget exceed the 2006 budget by approximately $4.3 million. Bieter credits prudent budgeting, cost-saving efforts and a healthy local economy for a projected 2007 general fund budget increase.

"With the conservative fiscal policies we have adopted during the past two years, the City of Boise is fortunate to be in the financial position to address increased service demands and challenges up front rather than long after they become crises," Bieter wrote in his budget recommendation. This week, city leaders and the public will consider measures to address these demands that include:

• Hiring eight "community service" police officers.

• Building a new fire station.

• Updating the library's master facilities plan.

• Continued savings toward construction of new police facilities.

City Councilor Jim Tibbs, the former interim Boise Police chief, said he liked the idea of the eight community service officers but was wary of using officers who might lack some critical enforcement training.

Property tax receipts from new construction estimates account for one of the largest increases, adding an additional $735,000 to the budget.

Bieter's mid-term budget plan focuses largely on transportation and public safety. New wastewater treatment systems, improved parks and more funding for public transportation top his spending priorities.

Although Bieter wants to see more public transit options on Boise streets, his recent push for a bigger system came at a time when transportation spending practices were getting criticized for a lack of accountability.

A 2005 in-depth audit found that Valley Regional Transit's financial reports did not conform to basic booking keeping practices (BW, News, "Free Ride?" 05/31/2006). Valley Regional Transit managers said many of the problems came when VRT switched accounting systems and say the problems have since been corrected. Auditors recently took another look at VRT's books and a full report on that audit is expected in the coming weeks. Transportation managers have recently re-worked city routes in an effort to make transportation more accessible, a goal Bieter shares in his budget priorities.

For now, Bieter is proposing a 2007 appropriation of $622,961 to keep the bus system up and running.