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Educating school officials

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No one (other than growthophobes) wants to stand in the way of growth–often erroneously termed “progress.” However like cancer, the Treasure Valley is on the verge of growing itself to death.

Meridian beams with pride at being the second largest city in the state. Meanwhile they also have the busiest intersection at Fairview and Eagle Road along with a school system chronically in need of more money through property tax bonds.

We often hear folks claim, “you can’t stop growth.” Maybe, maybe not.

What we can stop is encouraging growth. Every city, county, and the state all have versions of “economic development” agencies. In one form or another these agencies, while perhaps well intended, tend to PAY businesses or individuals to populate our valley which puts a tremendous financial burden on schools.
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The most glaring example is the overwhelming need to replace Whittier elementary school where more kids attend classes in house trailers than in the main building. School officials blame it in part on progressive teaching in multiple languages. Many parents want their kids to experience the cultural benefits and language skills offered there.

Sounds good. An admirable effort. The problem arises when Boise and Ada housing officials vow to build “affordable housing” on bare ground in the vicinity. Since it is within an urban renewal district, NONE of the taxes on the improvements or appreciated value will go to Boise City or the Boise School District–it all goes to the urban renewal agency which is dedicated to attracting more business, which attracts more people, which attracts more kids, more cars, more bikes, more demand on water, etc. The contractors, bankers, developers all love it. The rest of the community pays the bill.

Former BSU football coach Dan Hawkins had it right when he said, “Bigger isn’t better. Better is better.”

The financing scheme at Harris Ranch in Boise’s east end has created a demand for a junior high school, fire station, and now a new elementary school. In fact, Boise school super Don Coberly revealed plans for a potential BOND REQUEST from voters for $172 million. College of Western Idaho is seeking another $180 million for new facilities, including tax-exempt facilities in the urban renewal district near Whittier along the Boise River at Main St.

We calculated that Boise schools, the city, county, ACHD and others lose a combined total of about $378,000 in property taxes on the SkyWest hanger the city built for the airline. That annual loss in tax revenue is FOREVER because there is no tax on city-owned buildings. The airport charges rent to pay off the bonds, but citizens were not allowed to weigh-in on the decision to build the $20 million plus structure.

If school officials would publicly oppose some of the unwarranted growth, or perhaps have veto authority over development plans, perhaps things would be more in balance.

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