- City council approved federal Dept. of Justice grant for police department (cost to Twin Falls reisdents: $371,976)
- City council approved additional $15,000 to fire department for a new truck
- City council approved fee increase for new construction
Police take DOJ Dollars
Monday’s (1.24.22) city council meeting started with police chief Kingsbury asking the council to approve receipt of a federal COPS grant (funded by the Department of Justice) in order for the Twin Falls Police Department to hire four more police officers. The department already received the same grant in 2013 and 2016, so asking to approve this again probably took very little thought on the police chief’s part. The grant comes with reporting and standards strings, and is not a “free money” (there never really is such a thing) grant. Twin Falls taxpayers will incrementally pay more and more of the cost of these additional officers over the course of the next three years, eventually paying a total of $371,976. The justification for taking this federal money (with strings and all) was that the city of Twin Falls could not afford these additional officers. By taking this grant, we are financially binding ourselves for the next three years to pay these amounts in full. Does this grant money mean the federalization of our local police? The request was approved 7 to 0.
Fire Dept. Overspends Budget, asks for more Money
The Twin Falls fire department presented a request to the council to increase an already-budgeted amount from $750,000 by $15,000. The previously approved amount was granted for the fire department to purchase a new fire engine, but since November of last year the price for a new engine has increased significantly. There was some confusion about the amount that was actually being requested by the fire department, voiced by both councilman Shawn Barigar and councilwoman Nikki Boyd. Bureaucrat and city manager Travis Rothweiler made sure to break into the conversation to offer CARES dollars as the answer yet again. How exactly a new fire engine for the city fire department relates to the SARS-CoV-2 infection remains a mystery. The increased budget request was approved unanimously.
Public Hearing Leads to Fee Increases (again!)
The last item of note at Monday’s meeting was the public hearing to increase the impact fees on new construction (again). If you have been following the Twin Falls city council for a while, you will remember that the council just increased the impact fees in November 2021. You can read that article here, but the following is a brief primer. Last year, zoning application fees (a separate fee from the impact fees being discussed at this meeting) were increased by over 130%. These fees are collected any time a land owner requests the city to change how their land is classified. For example, a landowner may want their residential land to be re-zoned so that they can build a commercial storefront on that land. At the time, the reason for the increase was said to be the unprecedented growth that we have seen over the past few years.
The same impact fees which were being discussed at Monday’s meeting (which are collected when residents apply to build a new structure or request the city to increase their municipal services) were also just increased last year. The impact fees are based on something called the Municipal Cost Index, or M.C.I. for short. You can think of this as the government’s version of the consumer price index, which tracks inflation and the cost of goods in the economy at any given time. The M.C.I. reports that over the last ten years, the highest increase has been 4.1%. That is, until this last year, when the increase was 11.4%. Because the city has tied the impact fee increases to the increase of the M.C.I., this fee was automatically increased.
A close inspection of the numbers tells an interesting story. The citizens that will be hardest hit by this fee increase are those who wish to build a single family home. As you can see in the chart below, the price increase for an application to build a single family dwelling will be an additional $447, while a multi family dwelling (apartments, townhouses, and developments) will see an increase of $377. While neither of these increases are small or justifiable, it is strange that individuals wishing to build a home for their family will bear a higher burden to the city than a developer building a fifty unit high-density apartment complex. The numbers get even more confusing as commercial applications are assessed on a per-square-foot basis, rather than a flat rate. Once again, the city council voted unanimously (7-0) in favor of raising your building fees.
|Current||Proposed||Increase ($)||Increase (%)|
|Retail||$3.48/sq. ft.||$3.88/sq. ft.||0.40/sq. ft.||11.4%|
What can we do?
What can be done about this local government overreach? If any of these votes by the council angers you, speak up! Attend the next Twin Falls city council meeting and speak during the public input period. Your tax dollars pay for those council members to be there every Monday evening, the least they can do for you is hear your concerns. You can also write emails to the council members, join one of the various committees that control how tax dollars are spent, or join one of MVLA’s citizen action groups to keep the council accountable. A great place to start is on our Join the Team page.
Remember, Twin Falls city council meets every Monday at 5:00PM at city hall (203 Main Ave. E, Twin Falls, ID 83301).