Elected officials working
together to positively
manage community
growth.

Meeting Minutes
December 9, 2019

Attendees

  • Chad Bell
  • Gheen Christoffersen
  • Tom Dale
  • Tammy de Weerd
  • John Evans
  • Brad Holton
  • Debbie Kling
  • Diana Lachiondo
  • Angie Lee
  • Nathan Leigh
  • Chelsea Wilson for Garret Nancolas
  • Stan Ridgeway
  • Robert Simison
  • Joe Stear
  • Darin Taylor

Staff and Guests

  • Brad Little, Governor of Idaho
  • Melinda Smyser, Director – Idaho Office of Drug Policy
  • Bobbi-Jo Meuleman, Director – Intergovernmental Affairs, Idaho Governor’s Office
  • Bill Larsen - TVP

Welcome and Introductions

Mayor Tammy de Weerd welcomed everyone to the City of Meridian.

Meridian has a lot going on. They have a “cornerstone” project that is going in downtown. It comprises both living and retail space. Additionally, an agreement has been reached with Union Pacific regarding having access to a blighted piece of property which is “special use property” by Union Pacific. This has been a huge impediment to downtown redevelopment.

The proposed first phase of this property is to be a 5-story residential/office space. Structured parking will also come with that development. They also have their “civic block project” which will bring in a community center.

Tammy said there is also a lot of commercial development occurring. So much so, their current staff are not equipped to handle the load of plan review and inspections. They are looking at contracting out some of these functions.

Darin moved to approve the minutes and financial statement, John seconded, and motion carried.

Open Discussion

Darin indicated the City of Middleton now owns a mile-length piece of property along the river. This will become a city park and have other uses to the city. He thanked cities along the river for their vision of what a city riverscape could be, and they have modeled their river planning activities on the examples in the valley.

Joe said one of the proudest things he gets to be involved with is this group. People are always impressed that we as cities and counties talk to one another and do coordinate. It makes their jobs a lot easier to sit with this group where everyone understands what we are going through. He is really going to miss those who won’t be coming back.

Tom said, this organization gives us a forum where we can talk, pick the brains of each other to find out what works in their organizations. Tammy has expressed many times that we are a region. A lot of us work in organizations like COMPASS and VRT and we realize we don’t operate in a silo. What happens in each of our community’s influences each of the others. This organization has given us an opportunity to realize this.

Tammy said all of us have come into this Partnership as a newly elected officials and have questions regarding the value of the organization. There is great value and you are not really able to articulate all of it. Having the opportunity to be frank off the record and talk about real problems. Over the last 16 years, she has had the privilege of being part of making some pretty momentous change as a team. We haven’t always agreed on everything. But that is what made the outcomes even greater.

She hopes we are able to continue to articulate the value of the Treasure Valley Partnership. She hopes the incoming elected officials show commitment to being at the table and making it a priority on their calendars. It will reap great benefits.

It has been a real pleasure, honor and privilege to sit around the table at the Partnership.

Legislative Issues

Diana asked if someone has been identified to carry the torch during the legislative session for AIC. John mentioned they have a lobbyist that will on the same page with Seth.

Senator Rice will be an important player on the Senate side for local government issues. He has had a couple meetings with Garret to learn about City budgeting, finance, etc.

John reiterated that if the members get ideas as this session goes on, please share them as it will be a help for those down there at the Statehouse. They are going to let the Speaker and Pro Tem know that taking somewhere between $40 - $60 million out of the revenue sharing pool of sales tax doesn’t help if you are trying to relieve the burden on property tax.

With regard to the property tax working group, John said that we have to continue to press the issue that there are just a handful of cities in the State over 20,000 in population. The actions taken will have unintended consequences in rural Idaho. Tom added that it is the same on the county side. Out of 44 counties, there are just a few that have a population base. Many of the counties are just barely scraping to provide services.

Counties are different from Cities in that they are mandated to provide certain services. Courts, public defense, indigent medical are just an example. If they change the revenue where we can’t provide these services, it will be devastating to a lot of counties.

Diana had the assessor look at residential vs commercial burden in Ada County over the last 20 years. In 2000, 57% of the burden was born by residential properties. This past year was the highest ratio where 74% of the property tax burden was born by residential properties.

She does not know what the right balance should be, but she is looking at the data and understands people are feeling the pain when it comes to residential tax burden.

The other piece she wanted to point out relates to a recent OP-ED from the ADA Sheriff. He has gone back and asked the court to enforce an injunction which was done in the 90’s. This injunction basically states the State needs to pull its prisoners out of their jail after seven days. We showed the legislature that last year Ada County subsidized the State to the tune of $1.6 million. Because of the numbers being so high this year, they feel the number will be closer to $3 million.

When it comes to talking about tax shifting, it is important to recognize that they don’t just shift the burden from City to County or vice versa, the shift is from state obligation to local property tax payer.

Tammy said this is a big concern. The big piece is schools. Schools are the State’s responsibility and are about 32% of the total property tax bill. The State has a constitutional mandate to fund schools. She has talked to the Speaker and the Pro Tem and asked the question of where in the State Constitution does it say the State will not fund school buildings.

Tammy mentioned we have been talking to the legislature for many years to have a growth-related mechanism to fund school buildings. And every year they have refused to consider alternatives. She knows from door-knocking in Meridian, their citizens want growth to pay for itself.

Chad wanted to say thank you to the Partnership. It is by far the most rewarding meeting of the month that we go to. He appreciated the opportunity to be a part and the support everybody gives.

We have started something that we need to continue. He never has seen anything like this before (Governor’s visit). As a group, the Partnership needs to be united to press this front.

Substance Abuse Initiative’s in Idaho

Tammy introduced Melinda Smyser, Director of the Idaho Office of Drug Policy (ODP).

Lets start with some vital statistics. 2 in 5 high school students used a vape in 2017 and it has grown since then; 50% of the drug overdose deaths in Idaho in 2018 involved opioids (125 out of 248); and the concentration of THC in marijuana has increased 212% since 1995. These are just a few of the problems faced by the Office of Drug Policy.

Governor Otter started the ODP 12 years ago along with Debbie Field and Lorrie Otter. They have a lot of opportunities for the communities in the Treasure Valley to participate. Tammy has been a major champion in substance abuse issues and their staff participates in ODP activities.

They get a $2.3 million annual Partnership Success Grant. Some of the things they focus on are underage drinking, marijuana use and methamphetamine use. For those that thought a new drug had come to town in the form of opioids, it did. However, meth never left, and meth is still king.

They decided to give these grants through the public health districts. When you get out of the Treasure Valley, Idaho is rural. Public health districts have the pulse and idea on what is happening in their communities.

They also fund 22 local law enforcement agencies for things like interdiction activities and community presentations on identified priority substances.

They receive a $106,000 E-Cigarette Mini-Grant which is funded by the Idaho Millennium Fund. The purpose of this fund is to implement prevention strategies and education addressing use of e-cigarettes among Idaho youth. The challenge with e-cigarettes and vaping in general is we don’t have a lot of factual information or research. However, one recent fact on the recent vaping epidemic, over 86% of the cases are vaping THC.

They also have a $1.8 million block grant that is spread to 54 providers around the state for education and prevention activities in schools, community life-skills training, etc. They have served over 28,000 students across the state with this grant.

As the Partnership is aware, the ODP has a 5-year Opioid and Substance Strategic Plan. They are in their third year and have over 80 partners. There are 4 critical success factors and goals for the Plan. They are; 1) educate providers, patients and the public, 2) improve opioid prescribing practices, 3) strengthen and support families, and 4) expand awareness of and access to treatment for opioid abuse.

Under each of these sections they have developed a myriad of programs and resources. For example, they have RAC cards that show drug take-back locations around the State. Also. they have a program where they fund police departments and other organizations to have Naloxone on hand, in case of an overdose.

One of the programs that morphed from the Treasure Valley Opioid group and is funded by the OPD, is a hospital, warm hand-off program. Where if they receive someone in their emergency room for an overdose, there is now money and a process in place where the hospitals can refer these people to some services for substance abuse.

On the horizon, there is a Medical Marijuana petition that is coming up. Hemp legislation is expected to arise again this year.

She encouraged everyone to look at these issues. If there is any way the Office of Drug Policy can help you to reach out, form coalitions, etc., please contact her.

Tammy thanked Melinda for her work and for her office working closely with cities and counties in the Treasure Valley and around the State on opioids and other initiatives.

Governor Brad Little

Tammy said we are honored to have Governor Little at a Treasure Valley Partnership meeting. When the Governor created the Intergovernmental Affairs Office, it showed us the true dedication of having communication with cities and counties and the desire to work together.

Governor Little said he was glad to here. Creating the Intergovernmental Affairs Office seemed like the right thing to do. Bobbi-Jo and Andrea work with local government, the federal government and the tribes as well. It is important that this work be imbedded in the decisions we make in the Governor’s Office.

He has been around long enough where he saw a lot of kids leave Idaho. He doesn’t want this to happen. He wants them to have the opportunity to choose to stay. This has a double edge sword. The atmosphere we create to get our kids to stay here is also the driver behind people wanting to move to Idaho. His focus is to create economic opportunity for our kids to stay here.

He saw a recent study that ranked Idaho 2nd in the country behind Utah for economic opportunity.

If you look around the State, we are seeing growth in Sandpoint, Coeur d’Alene, Twin Falls and the Pocatello/Idaho Falls areas. In fact, the Coeur d’Alene area has had a sharper incline in housing values than the Treasure Valley.

People have to have better jobs and higher incomes, and a lot of that rest on the shoulders of cities and counties. What kind of economic opportunities do you have in your communities, for that to take place?

He met recently with the Hispanic Commission on some of the things they are doing. Being able to read proficiently at an early age is very important especially to the Latino community. If we are going to create these jobs, then it is going to require higher education. And you can’t educate them if they can’t read.

Finally, getting people to stay here comes down to quality of life. And that is where Mayors and Commissioners come in. Clean water, safe neighborhoods, transportation, etc. When it comes to transportation, now is the time to set the table and make the case about needs. As you visit with your highway district, compass or anyone else, efficiency is important to them. We want to make sure that what ever progress we do make with transportation funding, that it goes into finished product instead of overhead.

We are making some progress on bridges. We all know that congestion in the valley is going to continue to grow. What we are going to do on transit is going to be at the forefront. What options are there. He has always been concerned about the edge effects of local option taxes. Does it move care dealerships, furniture stores and other retail establishments out of the municipality. Does the local option area be inclusive enough to keep this from happening? When Ken Harward was with the AIC, he was in the Senate and RS’ed a bill on a big, broad local option tax.

We are getting good revenue numbers. But we still are under the cloud of the revenue numbers that existed because we didn’t do a very good job of forecasting the impact of the federal tax bill.

Tammy said the biggest issue right now is the discussion around property tax. His experience is that you worry about the inclusive bills at the end of the session. If there is enough time to explain to the legislature and they get to hear from their constituents about some property tax proposal, you have a better chance.

He hears from everyone angst about property taxes. He was on the property tax interim committee in 2006 or 7. It was worse then. He was certain we were going to be facing a Prop 13 if something didn’t get done. That is Governor Risch proposed HB 1 which took the M&O off of schools.

Tammy said unfortunately Mike Moyle mentioned in a recent town hall they did, the State tightened their belts and reduced their budget by 30%. It is just coincident that 30% of her property tax bill is on schools. It really wasn’t a tax cut, it was a tax shift. They shifted it to the property tax which they love to complain about the most. We don’t know what we can do to get the governor the information you need to inform the legislature on how important this issue is for the health of cities and counties that provide that economic engine for our State.

We continue to feel the shift of responsibilities onto the property tax with things such as court room funding, transportation, etc. There is nothing we can use that doesn’t end up on a property tax bill that the legislature loves to shake their finger at.

Diana said we hear this constant refrain that growth needs to pay for itself. There are some folks who have their hair on fire about growth and want to build a wall around Idaho. Regardless of who she talks to, people are feeling burdened by some of the growth they are having to pay for. Whether that is a new school, or it is something like drivers’ licenses. They are having to put the burden of new employees and driver’s license location for their driver’s license bureau on property taxpayers because the fees haven’t been raised for drivers licenses.

As a general framing of that, we have attempted to use impact fees to the best extent we can, but we are somewhat limited and there is an amount of new growth cost that comes back on existing taxpayers.

Tom said we have been beating this drum a long time about property tax. Property tax is one big bucket that it is easy for the legislature to say, cities and counties you just work through property tax. We have very few other tools in our tool belt. We can’t do impact fees for schools, infrastructure and the like. One of the specific questions he has asked the legislators in Canyon County is, why are schools exempted from doing an impact fee. There is no bigger nexus between needing a new school and the number of new houses being built in your community.

Governor Little said we have an housing affordability problem. When we jack up the price of a new house with an impact fee you start having housing affordability issues. That was the issue with Prop 13. Under Prop 13 they put the full load of growth on new houses. That is why a lot of young families are moving up here. The price of a starting house is just off the richter scale in California and it was because of Prop 13.

Before he leaves, Governor Little wanted to say, the things we agree on are far greater than the things we disagree on. On the local government vs. legislature battle, you have his commitment to do what he can to temper that back. The issues we have with growth and other things are too big for us to spend all of our time and not getting along. What ever we need to do to solve transportation and transit problems is not going to happen if the State, Cities and Counties are fighting.

Tammy thanked everyone for coming. For the outgoing members; Chad, Stan, Darin, Dave, Nathan, Alicia and James, thank you for serving. On behalf of your citizens, thank you for coming to the table and being part of this collaboration.

Darin moved to approve the minutes and financial statement, John seconded, and motion carried.