Ever heard of someone being charged with a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) in Ada County? Let’s take a look at the dramatic difference in distribution of court fines and fees between Boise City and Ada County.
The cost of committing a DUI in Ada County, if caught and charged by either the Ada County Sheriff or Idaho State Police, is $1185. The State of Idaho gets $930 of that amount and Ada County receives $255.
In contrast, the cost of committing a DUI in Boise City, when caught and charged by the Boise Police Department, is $1132. Of that amount, the State of Idaho collects $202, Ada County receives $25, and the City of Boise walks away with $905.
Over my objection and “no” vote, Ada County signed off on an agreement with the city for all Ada County property taxpayers to subsidize Boise’s magistrate court operation, to the tune of $1.2 million a year or about 60 percent of the county’s costs not covered by our small piece of the fines and fees. This deal was struck despite the fact that adequate fine and fee money is collected to cover the entire cost, if the dollars are properly allocated to do so.
In 1999, in an effort to garner support for his downtown courthouse, then-Commissioner Roger Simmons and his Board offered Boise City a sweetheart deal – at a highly subsidized price – to provide magistrate court facilities and services. The city had previously been providing its own magistrate court services out at Barrister, near the county jail.
In 2008, now-Commissioner Vern Bisterfeldt was on the Boise City Council when it stopped making payments under the old agreement and challenged the legal requirement that they provide their own magistrate court facilities and services, claiming it was double taxation. The Fourth District Court judges en banc (as a group) ruled against the city. Bisterfeldt was still on the council when they took their case to the Idaho Supreme Court. All five justices ruled unanimously against the city.
In 2010 while negotiations over these costs were ongoing, with the full support of Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, Bisterfeldt ran for county commissioner. Now, as a county commissioner, former City Councilor Bisterfeldt has worked out a new sweetheart deal with the mayor, requiring about $1.2 million in county property taxes per year to subsidize the provision of Boise City’s share of services.
I believe that the dollars paid by the people responsible for committing the crime, or filing the court action, should pay the cost for providing these services. The fine and fee money is there and is adequate to cover costs. In the new deal, however, Boise City is able to retain the lion’s share of the fines and fees, despite the fact that the county provides the facilities and services that the courts have ruled are the city’s obligation.
Driving under the influence is a crime. It’s dangerous, and all too often, is deadly. When someone commits this crime – or any other – would you prefer that the fines and fees collected from them cover the costs associated with their actions, or should all of Ada County’s property taxpayers (including Boise residents) foot the bill? I am a big believer in personal responsibility. County property taxpayers who have not committed the crime should not be forced to pay the price.