Twin Falls Mayor Don Hall is a politician, but never let it be said he isn’t a gutsy politician. On Monday, he uttered the “T” word in a discussion on the condition of the city’s streets.
“T”, of course, means “tax increase” — anathema in a year when Congress seems prepared to let the federal government default on its obligations rather than raise revenue in any form.
Hall’s right: Too many Twin Falls streets are a mess, and more of them are going to end up like Eastland Drive unless the city does something — anything — to find the money to fix them.
“One of the grave concerns that I have is if we are truly dedicating enough money toward our road maintenance,” Hall told the Twin Falls City Council Monday night. “I think in this budget we make great strides toward that, but I wonder if we have the courage to move forward and possibly look for further monetary revenue to address the needs that we have in our road maintenance.”
City staff’s budget proposal for the coming fiscal year calls for $750,000 for road maintenance — $200,000 more than last year — but still more than half a million dollars short of what City Engineer Jackie Fields says she’d want to keep up with annual needs.
Hall pitched a 1 percent revenue increase that would be only one-third of the amount the city can legally raise spending by. City officials cannot directly raise taxes, only the city’s tax-supported spending level.
The increase would equal about $5 more in annual property taxes for a $150,000 property and bring in about $157,000 extra, city Finance Director Lorie Race said. Hall said he would want that money earmarked for roads.
The mayor is sure to get an earful on this issue, but we wonder how many of those complaints will come from folks who have to drive Eastland to work. Next week, the council is obligated to set the city’s maximum spending cap for the year, though it could always spend less. Councilman Lance Clow recommended setting that cap higher than needed and reining it in during subsequent public hearings so the council won’t paint itself into a corner.
That’s good advice.
It comes down to this: Nobody else is going to pay to fix Twin Falls streets — not the federal government, and certainly not the Legislature.
If it gets done, we have to do it ourselves.