Sandpoint City Council – Budget Increases
August 16, 2017
by Anita Aurit
There are still committee positions available with the city (bicycle committee, ADA committee, sustainability committee and others). Information can be found on the city website.
A workshop will be held in council chambers on August 30th for those interested in running for the available city council seats. The time is 6:00pm.
The public hearing regarding the dissolution of the BID (Business Improvement District) will be on September 16th.
Lawrence Blakey, a citizen of Sandpoint commented regarding the recent violence in Charlottesville, VA. He noted that “many years ago I was on an ACLU Board of Directors and we had to deal with one of the most horrendous civil rights cases in this country, the Skokie, IL case. (This is from the ACLU website, “In 1978, the ACLU took a controversial stand for free speech by defending a neo-Nazi group that wanted to march through the Chicago suburb of Skokie , where many Holocaust survivors lived. The notoriety of the case caused some ACLU members to resign, but to many others the case has come to represent the ACLU’s unwavering commitment to principle.”
He went on to say that Skokie has many Jewish residents, many of whom “made it out of Germany at the end of WW II”. He spoke of the discourse regarding this issue and that “we came down unanimously on the side of letting the Nazi party march in Skokie. Many Jewish people on the Board, one of them, a woman who was an MD, left in tears and left the ACLU.” “I bring that up only to show the constitutional rights of people we hate.” He then asked (and later said, “as a citizen I demand..” that the city, in conjunction with the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force issue a strong statement “about our stance against that sort of thing” (he was referring to Charlottesville, VA). He referred to the fact that, “we have our own history here, this has been home plate in North Idaho and we’re still getting over it in North Idaho.”
I appreciated Mr. Blakely’s stand regarding freedom of speech but was not clear as to what the statement was that he was asking for. I certainly hope he meant a statement against violence.
The Sandpoint Air Park
A commercial subdivision is being planned on the corner of North Boyer and Woodland. It was referred to as being zoned Industrial and is a 22 acre parcel. You can read more detailed information on the city website (http://www.cityofsandpoint.com/Home/ShowDocument?id=6513.
The major issue discussed was if the developer had easements. Aaron Qualls said it “does appear that he has easements” but evidently there is no official documentation regarding this at the time of the meeting. One citizen, the owner of a hangar at the airport spoke about the dysfunction of the HOA currently in place and his concern that the developer was looking to extend the current HOA with the new buildings. He noted that Ernie Martin is currently doing legal work regarding the easements and intimated that there may be issues. Nothing was resolved at the meeting.
Jennifer Stapleton gave a recap of the budget and addressed a few questions that had come up since her budget presentation at the last council meeting. http://www.cityofsandpoint.com/home/showdocument?id=6589
Some of the questions she responded to were:
- On page 20 of the narrative budget report questions came from the public and the press regarding the property tax increase. She said it’s a projected 1.8% increase
- The reason the outdoor shooting range is one of the top prioritized projects is that use has increased and it is, in fact, one of the most heavily used park facilities
- The number of Sandpoint fire employees is 10 with 2 Battalion Chiefs being added in 2018. As the Fire district is operating under the joint regional system, Sandpoint will share the cost, paying for the salary of one Battalion Chief.
- The increase in recreational programming is driven by revenue, meaning that these costs are revenue neutral. Staffing in the Recreation Department is paid via recreational fees coming in.
- The increase in garbage collection fees in the budget is for anticipated fee increases. The city will pay the higher fees, passing on the cost to users.
- The increase in elected official’s raises was discussed with Councilwoman Williamson asking how it would be handled if the raises were not given. Stapleton said there would be an amendment to the budget. After further discussion, Councilwoman Williamson made a motion that instead of elected officials pay increase, the monies be used to extend sidewalks on Ontario. After some back and forth, it was decided that the amount was not enough to make a significant difference so the motion was amended to say that use of the increased monies budgeted for increases for elected officials be used where needed. Stapleton said that SURA will replace the dollars for these projects eventually so perhaps the better use of the monies would be to repay the interfund loans used to pay for these things while awaiting SURA monies. All council members voted down the elected official’s raises and voted to use that money to pay on the interfund loans on SURA funded projects.
The budget was approved as amended and the property tax increase was voted in.
Some questions were raised regarding the city fee increase (there are quite a few and they are noted in the narrative budget http://www.cityofsandpoint.com/home/showdocument?id=6589
- Mooring fees are offered at a 20% discount to city residents
- The city will look at the numbers for Festival this year as regards city costs for police calls, trash clean up after Festival (which was about $16,000.00) etc. when they debrief with the Festival staff.
Purchase of New Truck
The city approved the purchase of a new truck that will replace the 1983 truck being currently used. Councilman Camp asked if the old truck would be sold and Ryan Luttmann, Public Works Director said that “they might have use for it”.
My Two Cents
I am pleased that the elected officials voted down an increase in their compensation; however I am still appalled at the amount of the city budget. I am not in favor of growing government and the rate the city government has grown financially is appalling. $40,136,717.00 for a population of fewer than 8,000. The most concerning thing is the growth rate in the last two years. Where will this end? Where are the voices of the citizens who will be priced out of their homes and businesses in this city?
Anita Aurit is the owner and operator of
The Office Sandpoint.
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