Monday’s city council meeting started with public proclamations for Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness month and adult education and family literacy week. Shawn Barigar and Vice Mayor Ruth Pierce were absent from the meeting. The lead ESL (English as a Second Language) instructor from the College of Southern Idaho (CSI) accepted the adult literacy proclamation and spoke briefly about the importance of literacy. The new Ms. Twin Falls Hannah Cameron received council recognition next and spoke about her platform. The platform focused on pregnancy prevention through abstinence education, which is the only sure-fire way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Ms. Cameron volunteers at the Sage Women’s Center and mentioned that if anyone is in need of pregnancy services or wants to volunteer their time they can stop in or make an appointment with Sage Women’s Center.
The City Council approved two spending items Monday: an MPOG (Municipal Powers Outsource Grant) for a local little league for just under $10,000 and a budget increase approval for the 2020-2021 fiscal year (which ends on September 30) for $15,851,167. The little league grant request was presented by a member of city staff and the president of the league Jeremy Banfield. The reasons for the grant requested included equipment purchases and improvements for the league. Mayor Suzanne Hawkins asked Mr. Banfield why the private little league should receive the MPOG funds. He reasoned that the league overwhelmingly serves children and adults of the Twin Falls community and that the majority of the money if granted, would be spent on equipment that would last five to ten years.
Twin Falls city budget coordinator Matthew Farnes presented the request to approve a budget adjustment for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, and it was a doozy. If I read the proposed & approved budget for 2020-2021 correctly, the total amount of money (taxes, fees, grants, and other sources of income) budgeted for Twin Falls before this increase was $72,802,374. This request was to increase that amount by $15,851,167, bringing the new total to $88,653,541. That works out to roughly $1,773 per resident over the course of one year. If you have a family of five, the city spends $8,865 on your household every year. Do you feel the impact of that amount of spending from the city of Twin Falls?
City manager Travis Rothweiler assured the council and the viewing public that the increase in revenue came mainly from the federal government’s CARES act and that most of the rest was taken from the city’s reserves and “unanticipated revenue.” Not to worry! The federal government is benevolently gifting us with much of this increase, and the rest comes from a mystery box labeled unanticipated revenue! If you are wondering if that CARES act money is free – it is not. Federally granted money counts as income on a business’s tax returns, the federal government sets the exact specifications for who can and cannot receive the money (subject to arbitrary changes), and if any guidelines are not met, there is a world of trouble for recipients, including municipalities such as cities, counties, and provinces, who take the money. Mayor Hawkins assured the public that the council members have looked over the budget increases in detail before the meeting. If that’s true, we should all be very concerned, and searching for replacements for these public servants come election season. No questions were asked by the city council about specifics, and the amendment was passed in a 5-0-0 vote.
Don’t take my word for it! The best defense against government tyranny is an involved populace, and the best way to begin getting involved in Twin Falls is to attend the City Council meetings. Meet me at City Hall every Monday at 5:00 pm and see how your local tax dollars, park fees, registrations fees, water fees, sewer fees, and traffic ticket dollars are spent.
203 Main Ave. E,
Twin Falls, ID 83301