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Thursday, August 25, 2016
Ada County Highway District Commissioners Approve 2017 Budget

Garden City – ACHD Commissioners approved Wednesday evening a $103 million spending plan for fiscal 2017 that meets Ada County’s transportation needs with a lengthy list of new projects.

For the eighth year in a row, the budget keeps the basic property tax at the same level. The Commission majority opted to levy the year-to-year growth in the overall tax roll (the value of newly improved properties in the past year), which will raise an additional $1.2 million for roadway improvements.

By law, the Commission could consider up to a three-percent increase in the basic property tax rate, plus the annual amount for growth in the value of taxable property within the county. Bypassing a base increase saved taxpayers $1 million.

    "What we do touches everybody’s life, every day," said Commissioner Sara Baker, noting that the ACHD’s $3 billion system includes sidewalks, bike lanes and roads rated as some of the nation’s best. "I’m proud of our budget."

Commissioners Baker, Kent Goldthorpe, Paul Woods and Jim Hansen voted for the budget. Commissioner Rebecca Arnold voted against it, saying a tax increase is unneeded at a time when impact fees on growth and state revenues remain above expectations and construction costs continue to come in lower than anticipated.

"We should not be taking a 3.7 percent property tax increase," Arnold said. "We have higher than anticipated revenues from other sources. At this same meeting, the Commission voted to give developers a break by reducing impact fees by 7 percent – we should have given breaks to both existing property owners and developers."

Arnold proposed a $1.2 million cut in the 2017 budget, eliminating the need for a property tax increase, but no other commissioner supported her stance.

"Nobody likes taxes," Woods said, adding that ACHD must account for the burden of new development on the system or risk falling behind. "That just makes fiscal sense. Once you’ve dug a hole, it’s harder to get out of it."
 
Goldthorpe praised ACHD’s staff for innovative approaches that give taxpayers maximum return for less cost than comparable agencies. Hansen supported the budget but said he would like to see ACHD devote greater resources to more non-automotive transportation choices, including transit.

Property taxes represent the largest revenue source for ACHD ($34.8 million), followed by state gas taxes ($28.8 million), development impact fees ($14 million) and vehicle registration fees ($9.4 million).
 
Some of the notable construction projects in the Fiscal 2017 budget include:

•    Ustick Road, Linder to Meridian roads; and the Ustick Road/Meridian Road intersection – $7.8 million – will improve the road to a five-lane section with four travel lanes, a center turn lane, bike lanes and sidewalks, and improve the intersection with turn lanes.

•    Fairview Avenue and Cole Road – $3.7 million – will add turn lanes, sidewalks and bike lanes to enhance safety and capacity.

•    Emerald Street and Americana Boulevard, from Orchard Street to Ann Morrison Park – $1.1 million – will reconfigure Emerald and Americana to add continuous bike lanes and fill sidewalk gaps on Emerald.

•    Camas Street, Orchard Street to Roosevelt Street – $1.1 million – will build sidewalk on Camas and rehab the road pavement.

•    Eagle Road Bridge over Dry Creek – $545,000 – will replace the old bridge over Dry Creek with a wider span with modern safety features.

•    Kootenai Street, Vista Avenue to Federal Way – $507,000 – will build new sidewalks and bike lanes.

•    West 1st Street, Broadway Avenue to Maple Avenue and West 4th Street, Broadway Avenue to Maple Avenue – $740,000 – will build sidewalk and upgrade old sidewalk on 1st and sidewalk on the east side of 4th and a pathway between Maple and Cherry.

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