HAYDEN — City officials met with city residents Tuesday night to discuss the upcoming Nov. 6 levy override vote.
Calling the proposed $1,633,000 levy override a “base budget increase,” city administrator Brett Boyer explained that the additional funds would go to pay for roads and for additional Kootenai County sheriff’s deputies to provide law enforcement coverage in the city.
Boyer said $653,000 of the override would go to law enforcement, and $980,000 would go to road maintenance. If approved, Hayden taxpayers could expect an estimated levy rate of $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, he said.
Boyer also acknowledged that residents living in the boundaries of the Hayden Urban Renewal District would see their taxes for that jurisdiction rise as well if the levy override passed.
At an Aug. 28 town hall, council member Matt Roetter had proposed that city officials disclose that fact on the Nov. 6 ballot for the sake of transparency, but several other council members felt offended by his remarks and retaliated at Roetter in verbal sparring at the Sept. 11 City Council meeting.
Boyer said the city likes its contract with the county sheriff’s office and is not looking to establish its own police force. However, if Hayden had its own force with staffing comparable to surrounding cities, Hayden would need 25 officers, he said.
Currently the city pays for four deputies, he said. If the proposal passes, that number will increase to eight deputies.
City resident Jeff Smith said, “I’m comfortable with the idea that we’re getting a bargain in Hayden. I’m comfortable with the idea that we should consider generating money for a few reasons.” However, he questioned whether the city needed to pour more money into its roads when its roads were fewer and in better condition than Coeur d’Alene’s, he said.
Tina Busby said it’s hard to adjust to tax hikes when you’re on a low, fixed income. She explained that every dollar of her income is already allocated. “When things triple, it causes your heart to pause,” she said.
She doubted the city needed more law enforcement coverage since it already has very low crime rates and the additional coverage would mainly result in more traffic tickets, she said.
A bigger problem in Hayden is the rising cost of living, said Busby. When housing, sewer, and other costs of living double and triple it makes it difficult for younger workers to find places to live besides mom’s basement, she said.
However, Lonnie Herington said higher taxes were an acceptable price to pay for the continuation of Hayden’s quality of life. Quoting Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Herington said, “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.” He thanked the council members for having the “courage to maintain our quality of life.”
Mike Glass asked if new funds coming in from Hayden’s growing population could be used for city needs instead of raising taxes. Boyer explained that “with growth comes additional burdens on services” such as parks and public works. He also said that through the Nov. 6 vote, citizens can decide what level of law enforcement coverage and road maintenance they desire.
Mayor Steve Griffitts thanked the packed house for their participation. The levy override requires 60 percent approval at the ballot box Nov. 6 to pass.