|Ada County courthouse|
One of the recurring themes of this decade, when the histories are writ, likely will be the hazards of "creative financing." We hear about it most often on the national level, but you can find it locally too. In her new blog, new/returning Ada County Commissioner Sharon Ullman reports on an example:
In the 1990’s, Ada County taxpayers were told that a public/private partnership would be a means of acquiring a new courthouse at a discounted price. One of the subsidies that was supposed to offset a portion of the cost of paying off the courthouse bonds was parking revenue from the project on an ongoing basis. Boise’s redevelopment agency, Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC), was intricately involved with the complex courthouse financing scheme. CCDC also owns and manages the majority of downtown parking facilities, including courthouse parking.
When the courthouse opened in early 2002, visitors were charged one dollar ($1) per hour for parking. Since then, CCDC has changed the fee structure for all of their parking facilities, including at the courthouse. They now provide the first hour of parking free, but have raised rates to $2.50 per hour.
Despite having increased their hourly parking rate a hundred and fifty percent since the courthouse opened, representatives of CCDC came to the Board last week to let my Commission colleagues and I know that revenues are lower than expected and they need more money to offset the cost of payments for the courthouse bond debt. CCDC wants either increased parking rates, or a payment each year from county taxpayers, to make up the deficit. When I asked the amount of the deficit, no one present at the meeting from CCDC was able to answer my question. What we do know, at this point, is that there is a deficit.
No matter how well intentioned at the time, no part of the much ballyhooed courthouse financing scheme worked as intended. The folks who fought against using “creative” financing (including former legislators Robert “Bob” Forrey, Jim Auld, Rachel Gilbert and Rod Beck) for a new Ada County courthouse were right. It didn’t work. Sadly, Ada County’s taxpayers are now paying the price.
Hat tip to the Boise Guardian, which adds that "Urban renewal opponents predicted for years that taxpayers would ultimately be left holding the bag, but urban renewal PROponents have always claimed that any default risk would be only on the bondholders and 'bond insurance' would protect them."