August 9, 2021

Pocatello for Accountable Government Entities (P.A.G.E.) Co-Founder Lydia Noble addressed the Pocatello City Council during the time set aside for public comments on the proposed FY 2022 budget during the August 5 Council meeting.  In her comments, Noble, who is retired from a 30-year career with Idaho National Laboratory where she held positions in procurement, accounting, and finance, said that growth in City departments has, over the last ten years, “far exceeded reasonable growth expectations based on population.”

Noble’s full statement reads, “City services grow, or should grow, roughly in step with population—that’s often used as a rough guide.  After looking at the numbers, if Pocatello city departments have grown by about 2% over the last 4 years (after accounting for inflation), that’s about in line with appropriate “real growth” based on population growth of an average of .66%/year over the last 10 years.  Unfortunately, Pocatello has multiple examples of city departments which have exceeded that 2% growth—that’s what I am trying to understand and that’s what citizens need to know—why has growth in certain city departments far exceeded reasonable growth expectations based on population?  What justifies this excessive growth?  You should and must be able to answer this.

1) FIRST – – I do not agree with this budget because I do not agree with how it was brought into balance by removing funds from the GENERAL FUND city savings account and by virtually wiping out the CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT FUND – – this is not the way to structurally and correctly balance a city budget or any budget . . . it’s basically a one-time, temporary fix that just cannot continue every year!  The right way to balance a budget is to ensure that reoccurring EXPENSES are offset by reoccurring REVENUES.  (Editor’s Note:  Noble provided the following clarification to her statement:  “Fund 78 for Capital Improvements does still have the 25% reserves ($3.78M) for FY2022 plus $36K per the published budget, but reserves are typically used for true emergencies; and second, the source for my data in the first paragraph is directly from the Pocatello DRAFT Service Level Report on the city Financial website.”)

2) SECOND – – I had a meeting with Mayor Blad on July 14th during which he agreed with me that our current budget is unsustainable.  It may be OK for a few more years, but not much longer than that.  When I asked what he proposed to do, his answer was to take more property taxes in the form of the full 3% allowable each year (whether needed or not), about 2% in new construction and possibly another 3% of “foregone” taxes not collected from taxpayers in prior years.  This approach of taking up to an 8% increase, falls mostly on Pocatello taxpayers.  I do not agree with that being the primary or only solution to pursue.

3) THIRD – – Lacking any communicated plan, it appears the majority of council do not intend to make budget reductions of any significance.  This means that burden will shift to taxpayers.  I get that sometimes reductions are not the right answer.  But, if that is the course followed, you need to prepare and publish how you propose to increase the city’s revenues to offset our ever-increasing expenses and what does our taxpayer return-on-investment in this city bring us?

The City Council will hold a budget discussion at a budget development meeting scheduled for Wednesday, August 11, 2021, scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. in City Hall.  The agenda for the meeting can be seen, here:  Pocatello City Council Budget Development Meeting Agenda, 8/11/21

To learn more about P.A.G.E., visit their Facebook page, here:  P.A.G.E., FB

The August 5 City Council Meeting can be viewed, here:

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