Cut the Waste 4

Reducing Ada County’s insanely excessive spending

  • Get rid of the $80,000 per year contract lobbyist. Ada County Commissioners have plenty of clout to do their own lobbying, and work with the Idaho Association of Counties that also lobbies the Idaho Legislature on their behalf on issues of concern to counties statewide.
  • The three commissioners are the county’s Chief Operating Officer. Eliminate the redundant $157,000 per year COO position. This cut would save $200,000 a year when you add in the cost of employee benefits.
  • Stop going on vacations at taxpayer expense, like the one to Sun Valley in April for the Boise Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Conference. Two commissioners attended in 2023 at a cost of $2228 to taxpayers. They both took personal vehicles and were reimbursed for their mileage. Add in the cost of hotel rooms, conference registration fees and per diem for meals, and it got expensive quickly. Why go to Sun Valley to meet with other folks from the Treasure Valley? I never attended this event. It just seems wrong in so many ways.
  • Get out from under the lease for the Meridian Driver’s License facility. We are paying over $225k a year for the first five years, and the cost escalates from there. The 20-year annually renewable lease will cost taxpayers over $5 million, and we won’t own the facility at the end of that term. (We are also obligated to pay all taxes on the facility.)

    Let’s either buy the property outright or walk away from the lease and move satellite driver’s license operations in with existing assessor’s DMV locations that are spread throughout the county. Surely the sheriff, who provides driver’s licenses, can work with the assessor, who does vehicle registration and titles.

  • Ada County has many employees in various public relations positions. Let’s try to consolidate some of these positions and grow the skillsets of the individuals in them to become more valuable county employees. (I’m not suggesting firing employees. There is always natural turnover at the county when people quit or retire that can be utilized to reduce the number of county employees.) Getting the right people into highly useful positions that add value for taxpayers is paramount.
  • Sell the 220 county-owned parking spaces in a private downtown Boise building for which commissioners in 2018 paid $15 million – or more than $68,000 per space. When the facility was completed and the spaces finally became available for day use by county employees and nighttime use by apartment renters, that $15 million expense did start to provide a return to Ada County taxpayers, but it is a mere 2.17 percent. If we can get someone to buy those parking spaces and retrieve our $15 million, we can provide parking for employees at Expo Idaho and shuttle them to the courthouse, cutting down on downtown traffic and pollution. We can shuttle a lot of employees for a lot of years before ever spending anything close to $15 million!
  • Do away with the county’s $27 million “forgone” balance. When commissioners do not use the full three percent allowable annual property tax increase, they can “bank” the “unused” taxing authority to do so in later years. This past year, commissioners added another $1 million to that balance, because being able to increase the property tax budget by 26 million additional dollars was apparently not enough. They can’t add it all in one year, but over the next four years, this “forgone balance” allows commissioners to increase the budget by not just three percent a year, plus a factor for new construction, but another four percent a year on top of that as well. Those huge annual budget increases would mean even higher property taxes in Ada County.
  • Pay off the new coroner’s facility in Meridian as soon as possible. Yes, it will cost money we shouldn’t have to spend, but we are too far into the situation now to get out from under this $30 million debt other than by paying it off. Let’s at least stop incurring interest on it.

    We’re paying over a million dollars in interest this year alone for the debt on the coroner’s facility despite not having gotten to vote on it, as required by the Idaho Constitution, Article VIII, Section 3. Instead of incurring the more than $46 million cost for this property, the county could have bought an existing building that was next door to the old coroner’s facility for $8 million and remodeled it. It had been used for manufacturing fire engines so had all the appropriate high ceilings and rollup doors needed for ambulance or hearse access.

    To add insult to injury, electric bills at the new facility are three times as high as at the old facility, likely because of its opulent glass exterior.

I find it troubling that our elected officials don’t think these things through before committing tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money on unnecessary brand new buildings. Why build new when remodeling existing buildings can be done far more economically?

This is government. It should be functional and efficient, not extravagant.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

4 thoughts on “Cut the Waste

  • Mary

    Finally, someone with real, detailed ideas on how to solve problems. I get so tired of listening to candidates’ rhetoric on “I stand for…..” or “I’m against……” I appreciate your detailed explanation of how you would fix a problem. Sounds like you’ve given things a lot of thought and come up with practical solutions. They may not be perfect solutions in every case, but at least they are a starting point for discussion and certainly a lot better than “I stand for…..” or “I’m against…..” I like your style!

  • Roger Oakes

    Thank you for your past service and my primary response to what I have read here among the articles is; Where did you go? Lol. I know your name but cannot recall the history of who served when among the Ada County Commissioners. I look forward to your return to office. I gather for clarity that the two entities you were referring to in your letter regarding costs and waste that you mean specifically the Ada County Sherrif and Ada County Assesor who you remarked as having worked together well during the past. This was in the context of the disparity between the singular Sherrif’s facility for issuing Driver’s Licenses, and the many locations for the Assesor to carry out the functions of motor vehicle titling and registrations. Being autistic, I sometimes misunderstand what is meant in communication when it is not explicitly and literally communicated or worded. So a quick confirmation of that understanding would help me immensely.

    The rapid and overwhelming growth of the city, county, and region here in Idaho is my main concern. Being both a native born and raised Boisean and Idahoan, I know change is inevitable but preserving our culture and simultaneously high-quality of life can be quite challenging. Our need for housing both in the regular market and in the affordable segment are the biggest current challenge.

    Having qualified for a Section 8 housing voucher and not finding any available that would accept such a voucher, I would like to hear any ideas you might have on solving this problem. I learned that only after renting for a year with a Section 8 voucher are you able to apply for a Section 8 voucher that subsidizes the cost of buying your own housing. The nascent small home, or mini-home if you will, as well as the manufactured home industry are the two paths I look to in order to solve this problem. My status as a disabled person by Social Security standards causes me to want to leave my country of birthright despite the many claims of programs and helps that do exist but are of very limited efficacy. I would be most happy to meet and discuss with you sometime at your convenience the details of my life story and experiences especially as it relates to the issues confronted by county level government. You can reach me at the included information. Thank you again,
    Roger W Oakes

  • sharonu Post author

    Thank you, Roger, for your detailed reply. I would love to meet with you to hear more about you and the challenges you are facing. I do have ideas about how we can address the affordable housing issues in our area and realize there is not just one single, simple answer. Some of the ways in which to address the issue include house sharing, which is being promoted by NeighborWorks Boise, Accessory Dwelling Units which are already legal in unincorporated Ada County but require proper permitting and must meet certain minimum standards, and 3D concrete printing. You are likely already aware of the Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority as well as the Idaho Housing and Finance Association which is also headquartered in Boise.

    You are correct that I was talking about the Ada County Sheriff and the Ada County Assessor working together and possibly “sharing employees” (they would still all be Ada Couty employees,) to staff locations throughout the county where one could obtain a driver’s license and/or title and registration for a vehicle.

    Please feel free to give me a call. My cell number is 208-861-5848. I look forward to hearing from you!

    Take care,
    Sharon 🙂