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BOISE — For the first time in years, the city of Boise has proposed a budget decrease for the upcoming fiscal year.

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean on Friday released the details of her proposed $730.5 million budget, which is $34.2 million less than the current budget. The budget, which is soon to be up for consideration by the Boise City Council, includes no increases to property tax collections, other than for new construction, and accounts for revenue losses due to the economic contraction caused by COVID-19.

The proposed $238.7 million general fund, which gets two-thirds of its revenue from property taxes, is $2.6 million less than the current budget. The reduction comes from sharp decreases in sales tax revenue, lower-than-expected development fees and other city revenue. Boise is taking in a 1.6% increase in property taxes from new construction, but double-digit percent drops in projections for both sales tax revenue and development fees necessitated cuts.

Day-to-day services are not expected to be cut despite the big loss in revenue because the reduction came from slowing the growth of employee raises, contingency funds, reducing the maintenance and operations budget and other shuffling of resources to find savings. The city still has $1.7 million in cuts that “remain to be identified,” but the details will be forthcoming as the city gets closer to the end of the summer when the budget will be approved. The new budget year starts Oct. 1.

Taxes will still increase because of the sharp rise in real estate assessments throughout Ada County, but the city calculates that by not taking the allowed 3% increase to property tax collections, the average Boise homeowner will save $40 for the year. According to the city’s calculations, the average assessed value of homes increased from $330,200 to $351,023, a boost of 6.3%. Even with the city’s 0% increase to tax collections, the average homeowner will still see an increase of $37.82 to their tax bill for the city.

Overall, Boise’s residential property continues to be assessed at a higher rate than commercial property, which is putting a growing tax burden on homeowners to foot the bill for city services. Figures supplied by the city in 2019 say 65% of the budget comes from residential properties and the rest from commercial, which is the largest gap recorded between 2003 and 2019.

Despite the cuts to the budget, McLean is proposing 17 new positions to be added in the coming fiscal year. The majority of these new employees will be paid for with cost reductions elsewhere, reduction in other positions or savings resulting from hiring a full-time employee over contracting out for services. The mayor is also proposing to eliminate the position of Boise Fire division chief of operations, which is currently vacant.

The new positions include:

  • Five new police officers for the Boise police Department
  • Six new positions in Information Technology
  • Three new positions for the city’s water renewal facilities (Water Renewal Fund)
  • A Streetlight Technician in the Public Works Department
  • An Energy Program Manager for Public Works
  • A Social Media Manager in the Community Engagement Department

The proposal to add five new police officers is part of a multiyear strategy to beef up the Boise Police Department to keep up with the city’s explosive growth, but exactly what those positions will look like could be up for discussion by the Boise City Council amid nationwide debates over police spending and public safety in the last month.

Several council members, including City Council President Pro Tem Holli Woodings and council members Jimmy Hallyburton and Lisa Sánchez, all expressed interest in redirecting some police funding for social workers to respond to welfare checks and other duties commonly done by police officers.

For every tax dollar, the city of Boise spends 28 cents on the police. This is the largest portion of the city’s budget.

This year’s proposed $22 million capital budget includes $3 million for addressing homelessness in Boise, $3.1 million in improvements for the Boise Fire Department and $4.7 million for major equipment purchases.

Other major investments include:

  • $2.55 million for a COVID-19 contingency fund.
  • 30,000 to finalize renovation of Hayman House public art and community gathering space.
  • $100,000 for a marketing campaign to encourage walking, biking and taking public transportation to help reduce congestion.
  • $50,000 for translating city signs, utility billing, parking regulations and child-care related information into other languages.
  • $100,000 for training in new tools and strategies for the city’s community engagement team.
  • $100,000 to support the new City Go public-private partnership that packages multiple commuting options to downtown Boise.
  • $150,000 for new procurement software.
  • $179,374 for funding larger-than-usual Boise Fire Department training academy with up to 20 recruits.
  • $200,000 for accessibility improvements, including gender-neutral bathrooms, the addition of baby changing tables in men’s rooms, improved signage in public facilities and more interpretation and translation services.
  • $100,000 toward the creation of day care services on a sliding scale for city employees.
  • $50,000 for a new fiber conduit along Bannock Street.
  • $100,000 for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
  • $100,000 for updating the city’s strategic framework.
  • $100,000 for an eviction prevention fund.
  • $50,000 to study creating a Human Rights Commission.
  • $51,000 to pay for increased costs of operating new parks.
  • $100,000 for the creation of an urban pathway master plan.
  • $125,000 for the funding of the city’s upcoming zoning ordinance rewrite.
  • $600,000 for investments in clean energy.
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