PRESS ENDORSEMENT: Vote ‘no’ on Hayden budget request

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Until about 1 p.m. Tuesday, this space was filled with an editorial supporting Hayden’s request to increase its base budget via a levy override. That support held some caveats, but the entire landscape changed when citizen Steve Griffitts withdrew his support for the ballot measure and indicated that every member of the City Council felt the same. Griffitts, as you might know, also happens to be Hayden’s mayor.

After meeting with Griffitts on Tuesday and listening to his reasoning, The Press editorial board agrees that the measure should be defeated, retooled and — if it’s brought forward again — better communicated.

At some point, Hayden needs more help to pay for the quality of life citizens there enjoy. It’s telling that the city’s tax levy rate is ridiculously low compared to Kootenai County neighbors. Hayden’s rate per $1,000 assessed valuation is $1.15. Coeur d’Alene’s levy rate is $4.97 for every $1,000 of assessed valuation; Post Falls, $4.83, Rathdrum, $5.22 and Spirit Lake, $5.33.

It’s our belief that Hayden’s leadership is among the very best in Idaho. Elected officials and city staff consistently demonstrate effective and efficient decision-making. But without leadership’s support, the budget proposal should be defeated. Here are some of Griffitts’ observations, shared with The Press on Tuesday:

“Feedback with respect to the base budget increase has been divided into three groups.

“Group 1 believes that living in the City of Hayden is a bargain and that they support the ballot measure and needed services.

“Group 2: The most vocal in communicating to the mayor and Council has stated that they believe it is a bargain to live in Hayden, but they feel that this budget request is too high and that other options need to be considered or identified. This group has offered to work to find solutions to the law enforcement and road issues, because these issues are valid and need to be addressed.

“The third group is small. Some in the group have made vile and ignorant comments. They intimidate my family at work and in the public. They don’t come to town hall meetings. They want no taxes, but they are the first to call City Hall for help or assistance.

“I have listened to each of these groups. Though I am speaking as a citizen of Hayden, I feel the mayor and City Council have a responsibility to listen and to serve ALL of its citizens.

“It is as a citizen that I ask the Citizens of Hayden to vote against the base budget request as presented. Though law enforcement and road maintenance are important issues that need to be addressed, based upon my review of all available data, I feel that we can address these issues in a better, more responsible way. I have also had the opportunity to talk individually with each member of the City Council (away from City Hall and in accordance with all laws). Each unanimously has agreed with me that the base budget request should be tabled.

“Options for addressing these two issues could be to further validate the total costs and to have two separate ballot measures. These can also have limited time frames attached. For example, with law enforcement we can identify the cost each year of adding deputies, then when the correct number of deputies is addressed, lower the base budget to pay for ongoing costs, which are less than initial costs but would include a car, equipment, etc.

“The Council and mayor should ensure that new monies are allocated specifically to the issues at hand and not simply contribute to the general fund.

“I am grateful for the feedback and support that the citizens have given to me. It is an honor to serve them, and to serve with our Council. I am so grateful as a citizen for the tremendous professionalism and integrity of those who work for the City of Hayden. They make us all proud.”

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