Friday, May 18, 2007

Bellevue: Step up to the plate

It's time for Bellevue citizens to step up to the plate for a better city level of service on May 22. I was part of a diverse group of citizens appointed by the City Council last winter to advise them on what the community expected from city departments and how to pay for it. We were introduced to the revised Caplan Report, which recommends we need an additional $410,000 to get to the level of service enjoyed by other Idaho communities.

The 2006 property taxes Bellevue received were $261,918 of the total $62,323,115. Some of that is then earmarked for library, streets, fire protection and police services. Those were the departments we looked at. Herein lays the challenge. As you can see, Bellevue has been reluctant to ask our taxpayers for much. If the tax levy does pass, Bellevue taxes would still be way below most other city's in the state or the county.

We listened to city department heads state their needs. Believe me; all the possible sources of revenue were explored. We finally agreed on a recommendation that we would support $283,000, of which $200,000 would come from a tax levy increase. This was a "bare bones" amount that would provide for a compromise in deficiency funding to get Bellevue improved service for 2008. Most wanted to ask for more but were fearful that any more wouldn't pass:

The library would have a full-time librarian, plus a little operating budget. Young and old would benefit. It's amazing the traffic that's in there when it is open.

It would provide a start for a street maintenance program that has been missing for the last four years and be able to provide for a multi-task engineer to run the new sewer once in place.

The dedicated volunteer Fire Department would get one full-time employee. Presently, you had better hope your home catches on fire the right time of day. It's a no-fault reality that these volunteers all have other jobs slowing down their react time during the day.

The Police Department would get another deputy. This would get us closer to 24/7, plus a little extra per deputy to keep them in Bellevue. The option would be to continue losing them to the other higher-paying cities in Blaine County. Half of them can't even afford to live in Blaine County, none in Bellevue.

The Citizens Advisory Committee was supportive of ongoing discussions on fire protection consolidation and exploring the efficiencies of county police protection for our town. These both are good alternatives for increased levels of service, but negotiations are in their infancy. So don't look there for help.

Rumors of annexation are controversial. If passed, developers will likely be required for monetary participation mostly in other needy areas. The fact is, right now these possible annexations are not part of the city, nor are there any increased revenues available from them. So you can't look there for the answer.

It all gets down to the existing Bellevue citizens need to "Believe in Bellevue" and vote "yes." The tax levy will ensure the start of a better level of service for 2008, which must be passed May 22 or we won't have the dollars in place for next year. This levy increase is all about making sure our families and homes are safe along with a better lifestyle for our community.

Please vote "yes" for a step in the right direction. Don't just think about voting, please do it.

John Hollenbeck


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