What’s changed? Upgrading fire stations ‘won’t cost taxpayers a dime’

What’s changed? Upgrading fire stations ‘won’t cost taxpayers a dime’ »Play Video

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - City leaders say upgrading Boise's dilapidated fire stations won't cost taxpayers a dime. They propose another vote, a year after the November bond fell short of the supermajority needed to pass. The failed plan would have raised property taxes, but the new one won't.

Like the one last year, the new bond proposal would provide the money to fix up several Boise fire stations, which were built decades ago. Many of them are not even up to code.

Paying for the renovations without digging into the wallets of Boise taxpayers may sound too good to be true. The price tag is $17 million, but "it won't cost taxpayers a dime," said Dave Bieter, Boise mayor, in his State of the City Address last month.

During the speech, he proposed what he called a "no-tax bond." Bieter said the money would come out of the city's existing budget, meaning homeowners could hold onto their $6 a year, the average amount the city said they would have had to pay if last year's bond had passed.

KBOI 2News asked Adam Park, city of Boise spokesman, why the "no-tax bond" wasn't the initial proposal.

"The savings weren't available last year," Park said. "The financial situation has improved in the city over the last year, and we think that now, we'll be safe and secure for the entire length of the bond."

Wayne Hoffman supports lowering taxes. He heads the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a non-profit that advocates for limited government. Hoffman says the city is pulling in more cash from property taxes each year. He says that's taxpayer money and it pads Boise's budget.

"This is not something that comes at no expense," Hoffman said. "There is an expense, and the taxpayers deserve straight answers, not some kind of a catchy marketing campaign."

Park says the mayor hopes to sway a few more voters by avoiding a tax hike, and instead, working with the money the city has now. As for where $17 million over 10 or 20 years would come from, Park said the mayor has identified savings from a variety of different areas.

"We've seen a reduction in the amount that we have to pay for employee pension plans, we've seen some savings in health care costs and a variety of other categories," Park said.

The city has not finalized the list of projects that the new bond would fund, although the amount is nearly identical. The 2013 list included a new fire training facility that "would enable firefighters to be trained to handle modern building structures" as well as renovations at four fire stations.

The mayor and Boise City Council will hammer out the details of the bond over the next few months. The proposal could go before voters in November.

Even though paying for the bond will look different this time, firefighters still say that they need a space where they can practice more scenarios so they'll be ready in case someone needs help.