BOISE, Idaho — The City of Boise is in the initial stages of planning the budget for the 2023 fiscal year, which begins October 1.
Boise’s budget manager, Eric Bilimoria, met Tuesday with Mayor Lauren McLean and the City Council to discuss key points – including city services, the city’s response to inflation, growth, transportation, housing, economic development, and more.
"The people of Boise need us to keep our community safe, address transportation solutions, support a strong economy, take decisive climate action, and help ensure there is affordable housing. We're going to do all that while being good stewards of their tax dollars," McLean wrote in a news release.
McLean said city staff has been directed to craft a budget that would bring relief to Boise residents. Because of a bill recently approved by the Idaho Legislature and signed by the governor, McLean said the city can give property tax rebate checks to homeowners on the Circuit Breaker program.
She also said she asked city staff to look at the impacts of taking less than the three-percent property tax increase allowed by law.
“Those are just two examples of what we're already doing, while we continue to explore even more options to provide relief to our community,” McLean wrote.
According to Bilimoria, property taxes usually represent about 60-66% of General Fund Revenues. He told city council members, on Tuesday morning, there are two ways year-over-year receipts can do a base increase on existing payers up to three percent, which is generally used to support cost increases associated with existing services. The other way would be funding made available from new construction, annexation, and retiring urban renewal districts that may apply.
“Generally, that funding is dedicated to supporting new costs,” Bilimoria said. He added it would be costs to items like new police, fire, parks maintenance.
The City of Boise was able to adopt a $661.8 million budget for FY22. 42% of the budget went to the general fund (public safety, parks and recreation) and it was supported mostly by taxes.
"We don’t seek to reset the annual budget process when determining the fiscal year budget,“ Bilimoria said.
One of the proposed FY23 budget themes is community priorities, like Boise Pathways, housing, transportation, environment, and more. Bilimoria said the city would be able to advance those goals with one-time funding through sources like ARPA and Open Space/Clean Water Levy.
“We think that there will be meaningful opportunities to make some progress in those areas, utilizing some of those one-time resources,” Bilimoria said.
Bilimoria said public safety also falls into the city’s community priorities. The city staff is looking to expand public safety resources, which would be a mix of ongoing and one-time funds. He said costs would potentially fund the Northwest Boise fire station construction and staffing, replacing Fire Station 5, and police staffing levels, to name a few.
“Stabilizing the workforce is a theme that has been talked about. Both recruitment and retention have been a challenge given the current landscape in terms of providing services to the community,” Bilimoria said. He added the city has a staffing vacancy rate of about 10 percent.
Bilimoria told city leaders they hope to address workload issues by addressing compensation, repurposing some vacancies, and establishing new positions where staffing levels are currently insufficient.
The city also met with community members Tuesday night to discuss what the people of Boise would like to see the upcoming fiscal year budget spent on. A survey from the crowd showed three of the top priorities community members had were housing, public safety, and transportation.
Several people who attended Tuesday’s interactive meeting also voiced their concern about more libraries in the area. Community members complained that current facilities have become too far of a distance to bike or walk in a growing Boise.
"It's incredibly important for us to hear from the public," McLean told KTVB. "We want to listen to the public's priorities. We recognize with the pressures of growth and the pressures of inflation, we need to have a conversation about how as we grow, we continue to provide the services the residents want and deserve."
The City Council has several budget workshops over the next few months, the first workshop is on May 24. The budget book will be released on June 17 and then community members will be able to give public feedback online.
The city plans to adopt the budget at the end of August.
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