Why Passing Boise's Two Bonds In November Won't Be Easy

Sep 10, 2013

Credit Aaron Webb / Flickr Creative Commons

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter says his “buck a month” bond proposals will do a lot to improve livability in the city. Bieter and his staff have heard positive – and negative – feedback since he first floated the idea of a bond election back in June. In total, the bond package will cost $32.4 million.

One suggestion they followed was to split up the proposals into two parts: one bond will ask voters to invest more in parks and open space, and the other will raise taxes for fire department improvements.

The city council is set to take its final vote on the proposals Tuesday night, which will cement their place on the November ballot.

But – perhaps you’re asking at this point in the story – what’s a bond again?

“The bonds are a way to give cities money in the present to build capital projects that are often lumpy in their cost," says Boise State professor Stephanie Witt. "You need all the money up front to build whatever it is or to purchase the land to build whatever your project is.”

Witt says bonds are a way for cities to borrow money that will be repaid by taxpayers. The Boise proposals would ask homeowners to pay an average price of $12 a year for 20 years. As a reference, the foothills acquisition in 2001 was a levy, and operated differently.

But Witt says that in Idaho, the threshold to get bonds like these passed is pretty high. The mayor and his team will need to convince two-thirds of the voters to say “yes” to both ballot questions. The last bond Boise voters were asked to weight in on was for libraries in 2006, and it failed.

However, Witt says this is a different time, and the city has a chance to pass these new bonds in two months.

“If the city does a good job of explaining why we need these things and what it will give to the city, they have a better chance [of passing]," Witt says.

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