(Idaho Republican Party Press Release, September 12, 2021)
Boise, ID — Monday, September 13, 2021, President Biden will be visiting the Interagency Fire Center in Boise to review wildfire and forest management strategies. This is a unique and rare opportunity for the sitting President to visit Idaho, and we hope that while here he will take the time to meaningfully engage Idahoans on land management and other important issues.
Chairman of the Idaho Republican Party, Tom Luna, had this message for the President:
“Welcome to Idaho, Mr. President. While you are here witnessing the devastation of our forests, because of the gross mismanagement of federal lands, please take time to answer these four questions that have been troubling Idahoans and Americans alike.
On your first day in office, a gallon of gas was $2.63. The Keystone pipeline was under construction and America was energy independent. Today, just eight months later, the pipeline has been abandoned, and America is once again dependent on foreign countries for energy. A gallon of gas is now $3.75, a whopping increase of nearly 70 percent. Middle class and lower socio-economic families are suffering and struggling as the price of fuel continues to rise with no end in sight. What is your plan to bring the fuel prices down to the level we were accustomed to before you took office and to make America energy independent again?
For almost two years America had not suffered a death in Afghanistan. When you came into office America was positioned for a non-violent withdrawal and end of military hostilities in Afghanistan. Then suddenly, with little explanation, a botched withdrawal resulted in 13 brave soldiers slaughtered, hundreds of Americans abandoned, and billions of dollars in advanced military weapons fell into the hands of our enemies. Please explain. Was your withdrawal from Afghanistan the only and best possible solution to remove the United States from that conflict? And what is the plan to get all Americans out?
Mr. President, please describe how your recent vaccine and testing mandate targeting private companies does not violate our 10th amendment rights.
Finally, Under President Trump’s administration, our U.S./Mexico border was secure and illegal immigration was at an all-time low. In just eight months our boarders are once again unsecure and illegal immigration is climbing at a record rate. What is your border security plan to quickly re-secure our borders and protect all Americans across the country?
We sincerely hope that the President engages the nearly two million Idahoans impacted by his policies. Including wildfire and land management, Idahoans deserve answers to how this administration intends to address these additional concerns hurting our communities.”
What is the long-term impact of Covid-19 on Idaho? It has increased our dependency on the government.
With the pandemic declaration, Idaho received $1B in Covid-19 relief. About 55% of that went to advance Medicare payments to health care providers. Some went to businesses as grants or loans. And, some also went to direct aid to many Idahoans.
Money to Idahoans. Good, right? Before you cheer for money to the people of Idaho, consider the following. The need for charitable contributions went down as people’s needs were shifted to government welfare programs. In conversations with church leaders, I was told me that the number of welfare recipients has dropped significantly since Covid-19. Further, the hours of operation of the Bishop Warehouse have been cut in half, due to low demand. Charities from multiple religions are experiencing similar impacts.
If the low demand were due to recipients learning to be self-sufficient, that would be a good thing. We want people to be self-reliant. But, it is not good if the reliance is shifted to another source, the government.
A wise person once taught me that the function of the government should be to secure our rights. Now, with the federal government and seemingly our state government working in concert, we are being subjugated.
When we permit the government to provide for us, to care for us, we are also handing our freedom to them. The government does not create any resources. The only way for the government to provide for us is by taking resources from us. As a result, the government takes more and more, in the form of taxes and monetary policies. Except, there are strings attached to the welfare that we receive. Think about it. LGBTQ, CRT, vaccination mandate, transgenderism, etc. The level of acceptance of these principles was increased, especially since Covid-19.
By allowing the government to take care of us, we are also trading freedom for security. Also known as becoming enslaved by the government. George Washington explained that government is force. It is not benevolence. When we turn our lives over to the government, it will provide only by demanding obedience and compliance. In turn, we become its slaves.
The immigration policies of our nation during the founding era explain this principle. John Quincy Adams stated:
“This is a land, not of privileges, but of equal rights…coming here, are not to expect favors from the governments. They are to expect if they choose to become citizens, equal rights with those of the natives of the country. They are to expect, if affluent, to possess the means of making their property productive, with moderation, and with safety.
They come to a life of independence, but to a life of labor.”
Early immigrants to our Nation were given nothing, except for the opportunity to pursue happiness. The result was a unified America; she became the most productive nation on earth.
We, too, should not expect anything from our government, but a guarantee of our unalienable rights.
But, what about the charity we receive from churches? First, charities do not take from one and transfer it to another. Second, the conditions of assistance are different. It is spiritual. Churches focus on helping the individual become self-reliant, so they can seek spiritual paths they desire. The objective of religion is vastly different than government.
The Covid-19 pandemic has accustomed many people to look to the government as the guarantor of their security and lifestyle. But, what we get from is not free. Free stuff will end up costing … everything we possess.
The Pocatello Police Department has issued a 9th update on the Downard Funeral Home & Crematory investigation.
The update reads:
Subjects 2, 7, and 9 have been identified. The subjects were identified with the help of family members and the Idaho State Police Forensic Services office. Detectives are still working to determine the identities of subjects 3, 6, and 11. Descriptions of the subjects are included below. Subject #3 Adult male approximately early to mid-60s at the time of his passing. The male has a white beard with salt & pepper short hair with a full head of hair. The male is barrel-chested and appears to have a large frame. He was wearing a long-sleeve blue t-shirt with three buttons at the collar and a left breast pocket. He was wearing black athletic pants and had on a green non-slip sock on the left foot and a red non-slip sock on the right foot. He was wrapped in a blue/teal pattern fitted bed sheet and a white, grey, and red knitted Christmas-type blanket. He also had a pillow below his head that had a blue pillowcase with penguins and polar bears in Santa hats. The male may have been in hospice care at the time of his passing. It is estimated that he has been at the facility since late November 2020 to early January 2021. Subject #6 Believed to be an adult female in the 70s to 80s at the time of their passing. Subject has white hair approximately to the collar and was only wearing a blue, purple, green, and red plaid button-up collared long sleeve shirt. The time estimation on this subject is unknown due to the circumstances. The subject may have been in hospice care at the time of their passing. Subject appears to have their upper teeth, with a slightly crooked upper front right incisor that protrudes further than the left incisor. The subject has a very thin build and appeared to be shorter.
Subject #11 Adult female approximately 60s to 70s at the time of her passing. The female was bald and had a curly dark grey wig. She had pink acrylic or press-on fingernails and was wearing a long pink pajama shirt with a screen print of a bear holding a coffee cup, wearing pink bunny slippers that had “I’m a BEAR in the morning” printed on the front. She had a medical port on her chest that was purple. The female may have been in hospice care at the time of her passing. It is estimated that she had been at the facility for approximately 2 weeks before 9/3/2021. If you have particular information that one of these subjects may be one of your loved ones, or if you are a hospice care worker that has information about any of these individuals, please contact the Pocatello Police Department at 208-234-6121 or the Bannock County Coroner’s Office at 208-236-7377.
Are Pocatello Taxpayers to be Left in the Cold by Frigitek Project?
By: P.A.G.E. Cofounder Heather Disselkoen
Here we go again . . . just as we’ve being told how great things await us. They waltzed right in the door . . . Just like it’s been done before, and wrapped their arms ‘round our taxpayer money . . . Here they go again . . . just when we began to trust we’ve turned a corner. They promised forty jobs, but left us feeling robbed . . .And pretty soon, I’m wonderin’ how we came to trust you.
These adapted Dolly Parton lyrics could be our theme song. There’s no easy way to say this . . . so I’ll just be blunt. Once again, there are strong indications another “Big Win” TIF project is tanking. We have all really tried to be positive and have hope about such projects, but it’s hard not to be skeptical when there’s a pattern of oversold promises that keep going bust.
I do not know absolutely that the Frigitek project is defunct because once again the public has been left out in the cold when it comes to being informed about important issues in our community and getting straight answers just doesn’t happen. All indications are it’s circling the drain.
At the 05/19/21 Pocatello Development Authority’s (PDA) meeting, the vice-chair made a brief mention of a phone call/discussion that had occurred the day prior between himself, city staff, and their PDA attorney related to Frigitek concerning some requirements on performance, a deadline not met and something about wanting to assure a hometown company was taken care of. It was a brief, obscure mention. Nothing has been mentioned in the 3+ months of PDA meetings since May, 2021.
Subsequent PDA agenda packet legal invoices included statements like “review and analyze Frigitek OPA terms,” “review email on the conflict over payment to contractor concerning constructed improvements and OPA to Frigitek” and “follow up on issues concerning Frigitek failure to pay subcontractors for infrastructure work.” (Note the plural “subcontractors.”) Other invoices referenced “revising the draft letter to Frigitek in response to the IMC demand letter” and “provide comments for formal response letter from counsel concerning claims by Frigitek.”
In August, I obtained a copy of Case #CV03-21-02126 filed on 06/29/21 in which the plaintiff, Staker & Parson Companies, a Utah Corporation doing business as Idaho Materials & Construction filed a complaint against Frigitek Industrial Parks, Inc. seeking two judgments against them totaling $622,948 in unpaid work and/or materials provided. The largest payment of $560,172 was due 03/30/2021. A second invoice consisting of three change orders totaling $62,776.00 was submitted to Frigitek on 06/17/21 and was unpaid as of the filing.
Through an Owner Participation Agreement (OPA) authorized by the Pocatello Development Authority (PDA) on 09/18/19 and approved on 04/15/20, the PDA committed $500,000 to Frigitek in initial funding reimbursement and up to $4,578,117 as funds are available and sufficient increment is generated.
We (the taxpayers) through the Airport TIF invested heavily in the success of this project. Based on PDA records, the Frigitek project was reimbursed $904,197.44 between May 2020 and February 2021 representing nearly 20% of the total approved in the OPA.
The costs summarized in the OPA eligible for reimbursement primarily are for the engineering of the site, grading, utilities, sewer, and other infrastructure work, but also included are costs like management consultation, electric bills, etc. With the February 2021 reimbursement payment, the PDA expended nearly all their available Airport TIF fund balance. New increment has since been received. Based on the FY22 PDA budget, the Airport Fund is anticipated to have a balance of $52,047 on 10/01/21 and receive approximately $88,790 in increment and interest revenue/income in FY22, resulting in $140,837 in available appropriations through 09/30/22.
The TIF funds paid for engineering costs and infrastructure projects, so presumably any completed infrastructure could be used to support other future projects. However, everything was engineered for a very specific cold storage project which will need to be taken into consideration. With the Airport Fund essentially drained, it’ll take time to build up a significant balance for any future projects.
All of this leads to a number of questions. Who is responsible for vetting the companies that the PDA enters into agreements with? What is their expertise level and do they have a record of proven results? How closely are the finances of these companies examined? What are the criteria/standards in place? Is it time to evaluate the vetting process? Is it wise to pay out reimbursements without some assurances? Is there a better way to ensure and protect the taxpayers’ investment in these types of projects?
These all seem valid questions in light of Hoku, Positron, grants given with no measurable outcomes, the near-miss with Solargise, and now Frigitek.
While this recent turn of events appears to be a matter between Frigitek Industrial Parks, Inc. and their contractor, the public needs some assurance the PDA has no liability. I don’t know of any reasons why they would, but it would be good to hear it directly from them. Assuming they don’t have liability, why the complete silence for four months? Obviously, there are details the public is not privy to. However, the standard “official response” we hear so often from our local government of “no comment” doesn’t fly if the PDA desires to rebuild and maintain public trust. The nearly six-month overdue payment to IMC may very well indicate Frigitek lacks the available cash flow to pay their contractors and complete the project. And, based on the word “subcontractors” there may be other contractors in the same boat. The public deserves transparency.
The PDA established by City Resolution in 1988 is legally separate and distinct from the City of Pocatello, however it has strong ties to the City and Mayor. The Board members include the Mayor, the Council President, a representative of the County (currently a commissioner) and six other appointees, all appointed by the Mayor. City employees serve as officers of the PDA including as Executive Director, Treasurer, and Secretary. Although separate, the PDA is heavily reliant upon the City for day-to-day operations and for their guidance. For example, the city maintains all historic and current records and communications between the PDA and their counsel are facilitated by the City. In July, 2019, the PDA approved reimbursing the city for their employees’ time expended on PDA activities beginning in FY2020 which was a new practice. And, I learned it was only in January 2018, that the PDA approved obtaining their own legal representation (general counsel) when the then new City Attorney expressed there were potential conflicts for him to provide counsel to both parties. I also learned shortly after beginning to attend meetings in the Fall of 2019, no formalized, expert training was provided to Board members. This, in part, led to some unfortunate practices to be detailed in a forthcoming editorial. To their credit, after my attempts to communicate concerns with some of their practices, the PDA did arrange for their legal counsel to provide a training last October and the board of their own accord, finally dealt with some attendance issues (one member was absent for a full year before it was addressed).
Four months is ample time to have voluntarily been transparent with the community on these recent Frigitek events. Yes, some level of transparency exists in that the legal invoices were in the agenda packets, but genuine transparency and good communication practices extend beyond the minimum required by law to bring about accountability and build trust with taxpayers.
Speaking of trust, after a 2020 and 2021 attempt requesting they change their practice and (audio) record their meetings, I still have had no success with getting the PDA to even put this on their agenda for discussion. This lack of response was despite the fact I also cc’d the three elected officials on the Board (Mayor Blad, Council President Adamson and Commissioner Tovey) in the email to the Executive Director. What’s the harm in discussing the request and allowing the full board to make the decision? These meetings are held at 11:00 a.m. on a weekday when most people cannot attend the meetings. There’s certainly no legal requirement to audio record them, but the gesture and transparency would go a long way. To date, I haven’t received one written response from the PDA’s Board.
I cannot end without pointing out that Board membership and leadership within the PDA has changed a bit in 2021, and I am cautiously encouraged by what I’ve been hearing recently. There seems to be a growing awareness a shift is needed and that better communication will be beneficial to the PDA and its relationship with the community. Also, there still remains some possibility for good outcomes from the older North Portneuf and Naval Ordnance TIFs – these TIFs shouldn’t be conflated with these recent events.
Additionally, I don’t want to in anyway overlook the new leadership this year at Bannock Development whose drive and efforts are producing promising results and slowly beginning to turn the ship. The Frigitek project was in the works long before that changeover.
Pocatello has a lot of community cheerleaders who maintain a positive message about Pocatello. However, when it comes to economic development and making the best decisions with taxpayer money, the cheerleaders need to take a backrow seat because all the cheerful positivity in the world does not erase reality. We need PDA members willing to take a long, hard look at the newer TIFs’ progress and outcomes to date and compare the differences in approach, etc. to the TIFs that are/were successful like the North Yellowstone TIF formed in approximately 2004 and retired a decade early.
They must be willing to identify and acknowledge what works and does not work, study best practices and identify what keeps us stuck in a pattern leading to a disappointing record. I am confident we have community members, including current PDA members, able to make this happen. It takes guts and courage. The question is whether there is willingness and fortitude to honestly examine and identify past missteps, and make the corrections to change course. If they do, I’ll chime in with the cheerleaders.
(Idaho Republican Party Press Release, September 10, 2021)
Boise, ID — President Biden’s executive order mandating private companies to require vaccinations for their employees or face steep and damaging consequences from the federal government is outrageous and must be challenged.
“These sweeping mandates constitute one of the most egregious and tyrannical violations of the 10th amendment our country has ever faced. The 10th amendment clearly states that the federal government’s power is limited to those powers specifically identified in the U.S. constitution. If the constitution does not specifically grant power to the federal government then that power is left to the states and individual citizens. Nowhere in our U.S. constitution is a power granted to the president to force companies or individuals to receive a medical procedure or vaccination,” said IDGOP Chairman Tom Luna.
The Idaho Republican Party is committed to fighting back with every available legal challenge, and we look forward to joining our colleagues across the country to ensure that the 10th Amendment to the constitution is upheld.
Chairman Luna concluded, “Mr. President, you will not govern through unconstitutional force and compliance. We will fight back. We will ensure that our state sovereignty and individual rights are protected and preserved.”
The David Worley for Pocatello Mayor campaign will be holding a campaign kickoff event on Monday, September 13, beginning at 7:00 p.m. The event will be held at the Leavitt Center, Pocatello’s Community Center for the Arts, 1030 E. Sublette Street in Pocatello.
The event announcement reads, “Members of our Pocatello community are invited to join us to officially launch David Worley’s campaign for Mayor of Pocatello. Attendees will get to hear David introduce himself, speak about his principles and issues that are deeply important to citizens, as well as learn how to help him get elected as the next Mayor of Pocatello!”
David Worley is a Pocatello native and Army veteran. He made the decision to run for mayor because he is concerned about how Pocatello citizens and their businesses are impacted by high tax rates, lack of local government transparency, and poor management of the city government and its resources. He believes it is essential that the chief executive of the city acts to protect the rights of the individual citizen.
To learn more about the David Worley for Pocatello Mayor Campaign Kickoff Event, visit:
(Janice McGeachin for Governor Press Release, September 9, 2021)
Janice McGeachin for Governor has released the following statement responding to Biden’s unconstitutional actions mandating vaccinations:
Today, the Biden administration announced an unconstitutional federal assault on individual rights. His overreach is designed to impose the federal government’s preferences regarding personal health decisions on 80 million Americans.
President Biden said, “If these governors won’t help beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as president to get them out of the way.” Such a declaration of war on individual freedom is intolerable, and it is entirely unwelcome in Idaho.
I am formally calling on Governor Little to un-invite President Biden from coming to Idaho next week.
Will the governor have the courage to stand up for the rights of Idahoans? I won’t hold my breath.
Idaho and every other state that values freedom needs to take immediate legal action to overturn this unconstitutional and malevolent attack on personal liberty.
As always, I remain dedicated to the preservation of individual liberty, and I will do everything possible to fight for your rights to make your own medical choices free from mandates and other coercive measures.
The Pocatello Police Department has issued an 8th update on the Downard Funeral Home & Crematory investigation.
The update reads:
The Pocatello Police Department and the Bannock County Coroner’s Office are asking for the public’s help in identifying the remains of six individuals that were recovered from Downard Funeral Home and Crematory. The subject numbers listed below are not in numerical order. They are arranged this way for internal tracking purposes. The descriptions are listed as follows: Subject #2 Adult male approximately mid-60s to early-70s at the time of his passing. The male has an average build. Male has a white/grey mustache, short white beard stubble, balding with white hair, and thick, dark eyebrows. He was wearing a maroon t-shirt with a front left breast pocket. He was wrapped in a dark blue sheet around his back and had a red, white, and black plaid fleece blanket around his legs. He also has gold teeth/fillings on his upper rear molars. The male may have been in hospice care at the time of his passing. It is estimated that he has been at the facility for approximately 30 to 60 days. Subject #3 Adult male approximately early to mid-60s at the time of his passing. The tale has a white beard with salt & pepper short hair with a full head of hair. The male is barrel-chested and appears to have a large frame. He was wearing a long-sleeve blue t-shirt with three buttons at the collar and a left breast pocket. He was wearing black athletic pants and had on a green non-slip sock on the left foot and a red non-slip sock on the right foot. He was wrapped in a blue/teal pattern fitted bed sheet and a white, grey, and red knitted Christmas-type blanket. He also had a pillow below his head that had a blue pillowcase with penguins and polar bears in Santa hats. The male may have been in hospice care at the time of his passing. It is estimated that he has been at the facility since late November 2020 to early January 2021. Subject #6 Believed to be an adult female in the 70s to 80s at the time of their passing. Subject has white hair approximately to the collar and was only wearing a blue, purple, green, and red plaid button-up collared long sleeve shirt. The time estimation on this subject is unknown due to the circumstances. The subject may have been in hospice care at the time of their passing. Subject appears to have their upper teeth, with a slightly crooked upper front right incisor that protrudes further than the left incisor. The subject has a very thin build and appeared to be shorter. Subject #7 Adult female approximately late 50s to early 60s at the time of her passing. The female is of average build and has dyed red hair that was in a bun on top of her head, but growing grey roots. The female had obvious tooth decay, and her upper front teeth are very short and dark-colored. Female was wearing a pink button-up pajama top with long sleeves that had “Sweet Cat” printed on it with images of grey and black cartoon cats. The female did not have pants on. She was wearing white socks with purple toes and heels, and “U-R AMAZING” in pink letters. The female may have been in hospice care at the time of her passing. It is estimated that she had been at the facility for a few days before 9/3/2021. Subject #9 Adult male approximately late 30s to early 40s at the time of his passing. The male is approximately 6’0” tall with an athletic body type, brown hair with slight greying, and had a well-groomed beard. The male appears to have been embalmed and had on make-up for a viewing and/or a funeral service. He was wearing a white long sleeve t-shirt and blue jeans. He has three distinct tattoos; one on the back of his neck that is a sun with sunbursts, one on his left side with a black bull with red eyes and blue lightning bolts surrounding it, and a Rottweiler dog sitting on a pile of skulls on his right calf. Based on the circumstances, it is unknown how long he has been at the facility due to the embalming process. Subject #11 Adult female approximately 60s to 70s at the time of her passing. The female was bald and had a curly dark grey wig. She had pink acrylic or press-on fingernails and was wearing a long pink pajama shirt with a screen print of a bear holding a coffee cup, wearing pink bunny slippers that had “I’m a BEAR in the morning” printed on the front. She had a medical port on her chest that was purple. The female may have been in hospice care at the time of her passing. It is estimated that she had been at the facility for approximately 2 weeks before 9/3/2021. If you have particular information that one of these subjects may be one of your loved ones, or if you are a hospice care worker that has information about any of these individuals, please contact the Pocatello Police Department at 208-234-6121 or the Bannock County Coroner’s Office at 208-236-7377. Officers continue to work with the Idaho Board of Occupational Licensing. Today, three sets of cremated remains were identified and turned over to family members. At this time, staff at Downard Funeral Home and Crematory are cooperating with investigators. The Pocatello Police Department has been in contact with Idaho State University (ISU) representatives in reference to the fetuses located at Downard Funeral Home and Crematory. ISU has confirmed all the fetuses had been turned over to Downard Funeral Home and Crematory in previous years to comply with changing laws. ISU has issued a news release regarding this situation. To view the news release, visit https://myemail.constantcontact.com/NEWS-RELEASE–Fetuses-Discovered-in-Downard-Funeral-Home-Identified.html?soid=1127399030149&aid=k-njoa4sS7A.
The National Archives has placed a ‘Harmful Language Alert’ on the pages with images of the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence. The warning with a link, reads, “Harmful Language Alert: see NARA’s Statement on Potentially Harmful Language.” When clicking the link you are taken to a page which, in part, reads:
The Catalog and web pages contain some content that may be harmful or difficult to view. NARA’s records span the history of the United States, and it is our charge to preserve and make available these historical records. As a result, some of the materials presented here may reflect outdated, biased, offensive, and possibly violent views and opinions. In addition, some of the materials may relate to violent or graphic events and are preserved for their historical significance.
The National Archives is committed to working with staff, communities, and peer institutions to assess and update descriptions that are harmful and to establish standards and policies to prevent future harmful language in staff-generated descriptions.
From here, click on the link, under each document, which reads, “View in National Archives Catalog.” You will then be taken to a page showing an image with the document and the warning at the top of the page. The image of the Declaration of Independence can be seen, here: National Archives Declaration of Independence
The unfortunate truth is that Pocatello’s finances are not better than ever before or even just fine as some would have us believe. Everyone who manages a household budget knows you cannot sustain a budget in which expenses are growing more rapidly than income.
Managing city budgets, at its heart, is about people more than dollars. Budgets require talk about dollars, but it would be a mistake to assume those speaking are not excruciatingly aware of the people represented by those dollars.
I was ever mindful as a school principal that budget reductions impacted primarily two significant school populations: teachers and students. Similarly, funding reductions at the city impact two important populations: City employees and tax payers.
I was downsized out of a job in a school district some years ago. Finances took a turn for the worse. I was a high school career counselor at the time working with students who came from homes where neither parent had any education or training beyond high school. It was the most satisfying job I ever held! I and my counterparts at the other high schools were deemed non-essential and our jobs were eliminated.
To this day, whenever I contemplate that period in my life, I get a knot in my stomach. I was not a portion of a two-person household income. I was it! No job = no money = no mortgage payments = gut-wrenching anxiety. I did what I had to do to survive. I found another job and uprooted myself. I would never wish that scenario on myself or anyone else, but I do know first-hand how budgets are about people’s lives as much as they are about money.
I don’t feel sorry for myself. In fact, it was a core experience that forces me to think deeply about budgets as people’s lives every time, I make a financial decision as part of the Pocatello City Council. It holds my feet to the fire, and I am grateful for that.
The lives of those who rely on the jobs the city provides are intertwined with the budget. The lives of the taxpayers who provide the money to pay employee salaries are equally woven into the fabric of our city budget. City Council’s duty is to think about our finances from the perspective of human impact as well as dollars.
It is critical for city council and the mayor to consider how lives are impacted by dollars as we contemplate solutions to Pocatello’s current financial difficulties. We cannot lose sight of how potentially dangerous it is to empty/significantly draw down important accounts set aside for infrastructure improvements and community projects when we have no replenishment plan in place.
Due to a variety of unforeseen accounting errors and overestimations in last year’s budget, we collected about $650,000 less than anticipated during fiscal year (FY) 2021. Council had no choice but to cover this revenue loss by using monies that could have been applied elsewhere including increased personnel costs for FY22. Every budget error has consequences.
Not surprisingly, employee health insurance costs are soaring. Health insurance is a profit endeavor, and Covid-related expenditures have undoubtedly put a big dent in profits. One can only shudder at what another Covid onslaught could do to health care costs for years to come.
Some Idaho cities have committed to paying employees very well while not overextending themselves financially or taxing residents out of their homes and apartments. They maintain their financial balance by strictly limiting the number of employees hired and ensuring they are operating as efficiently as possible. They cover temporary workload expansions by hiring temporary workers to assist. Everything is transparent, so no one is caught off guard. While these cities offer fewer jobs, the jobs they do provide are stable and well compensated. An alternative approach is to hire permanent employees with less restraint. This approach often results in somewhat lower pay and an increased likelihood that some jobs will have to be rightsized when city expenditures outpace revenues.
Contemplating the reality that budgets are not just dollars but lives, it seems the more compassionate long-term approach might be to hire fewer people in order to offer greater job stability and higher pay. Pocatello has followed a hiring pattern resulting in a larger employee pool than some of our Idaho counterparts. The upside of that approach is that more jobs are offered for finite periods. The downside is that there is less job security and hiring/lay-off swings are more likely. Finite financial revenue can be stretched only so far. The more employees whose salaries are a piece of the pie, the smaller each individual slice.
Is it wise for the Pocatello City Council and Mayor to expend funds set aside for community improvement projects to balance the budget? When funds set aside for capital improvement are gone, they are gone. Without a tax ask in FY22 to replenish those funds – which would increase the budget expenditures – those accounts will likely be empty or significantly reduced next year.
Our employee costs are going to continue to rise rapidly due to annual raises and necessary benefit increases. The backlog of important projects identified by our department heads will continue to grow. Our available cash will dwindle simultaneously. It is never wise to use finite, non-recurring income to fund on-going, recurring expenses such as salaries and benefits. Such spending puts employee jobs continually at risk of falling victim to income reductions.
Some believe the income generated by new construction will be the golden goose and fill the projected FY23 deficit. Unfortunately, without going into excruciating detail, that just does not pencil out. Given that fact, the hard times our Chief Financial Officer and Human Resources Director have repeatedly warned city council and the mayor about seem inevitable.
Census Bureau estimates through July, 2019, show Pocatello’s growth in the 4.4% range. We are the ninth slowest growing city out of the ten largest municipalities in Idaho. With such a slow-growth track record, it seems foolish to rely on new construction to save our financial bacon. Personnel and materials costs are outpacing our new construction projections based on patterns over recent years.
We must value the lives of our townspeople as well as the lives of our employees. We must come to terms with our spending. We must embrace the uncomfortable reality of our current financial situation as the first step toward a solution that does right by those whose lives are deeply stitched into the tapestry of our budgets.
City Council owes our employees and our taxpayers the very best reality-based effort we can muster. We owe both groups thoughtful, responsible spending because every dollar represents a small piece of a life.