Fatally Flawed Agreement

On Tuesday, August 30 at 9:00 a.m., the Board of Ada County Commissioners will consider an agreement with the City of Boise for the provision of Magistrate Court facilities and services. Passage of such an agreement could end years of legal wrangling between Boise and Ada County. Unfortunately, the agreement currently proposed by the City of Boise, final terms of which are being worked out between agency attorneys, is seriously flawed.

The City of Boise proposes that Ada County property taxpayers subsidize more than 60 percent of the cost to provide Magistrate Court facilities and services for the City despite the fact that state law, a court order, a unanimous Fourth District Court decision and a unanimous Idaho Supreme Court ruling all place the responsibility for the provision of these facilities and services squarely on the City.

According to calculations provided by the Ada County Clerk’s Office, the provision of Magistrate Court facilities and services costs an average of about $6.6 million a year. The City of Boise’s share of these costs is equal to about 50 percent, or $3.3 million.

Ada County collects approximately $1.2 million in fines and fees on behalf of Boise City which offset a portion of Boise’s $3.3 million cost — leaving a cost of more than $2.1 million. Under the proposed agreement, the City of Boise would pay Ada County about $830,000 a year, although the revenue generated for the City through fines and fees for these cases is slightly greater than $2.1 million.

Let me reiterate: the City of Boise collects adequate revenue from Magistrate Court fines and fees to cover the full cost of the County’s provision of facilities and services related to the city’s Magistrate cases. The agreement currently under consideration by the City of Boise and Ada County requires Ada County property taxpayers to subsidize more than 60 percent of the net cost, or more than $1.2 million a year.

It is not in the best interest of Ada County taxpayers – even those within Boise City – for Ada County to heavily subsidize the provision of Magistrate Court facilities and services. This approach effectively uses property tax dollars to pay for services that should be covered by the related court fines and fees. Although the County has left the allowable three percent property tax increase on the table for the past six years – leaving nearly $60 million in property taxpayers’ pockets – this proposed subsidy of Boise’s Magistrate Court facilities and services will allow the City to further outpace the County’s spending on employee salaries and benefits, which ultimately will have to lead to a property tax increase to all County taxpayers in order for the County to remain competitive.

In contrast to the City of Boise’s proposed Magistrate Court settlement agreement, Ada County charges the Cities of Eagle, Star and Kuna approximately 90 percent of the County’s costs for the provision of enhanced law enforcement services within those cities, although the County would be legally required to provide some level of law enforcement in these areas if the cities chose not to contract to do so for themselves.

If there are any remaining doubts or questions about the cost to the County of providing Magistrate Court facilities and services, I would suggest we hire an outside accounting firm to provide an independent analysis. As currently proposed, the settlement agreement between the City of Boise and Ada County is clearly seriously flawed and I intend to vote against it.

If you would like to provide input prior to the Tuesday meeting at which the proposed agreement is exected to be considered, you may send messages to the Board at BOCC1@adaweb.net .

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