News Nampa Renewal

Idaho Press Tribune 18 Aug 2002

Nampa renewal debate heats up

Government: Councilman says there’s need for more discussion"

Lane Bettencourt

NAMPA -- The heat isn’t on yet for the city of Nampa to decide whether it will keep its debated urban renewal district, but it’s getting a lot warmer.

In 2004, the decade-long lifespan of the agency, which has funded projects ranging from the Idaho Center to a program to rid neighborhoods of abandoned cars, officially comes to an end. City officials face the question of whether it should be given a new lease on life.

Last week, the Nampa School Board decided to enter the discussion, raising questions about how urban renewal affects the school district's property tax collections. City officials say they will renew efforts to involve the school board in discussions about the future of the urban renewal agency.

At stake is the future of an agency that could continue to finance key transportation and revitalization projects in the fast-growing city, weighed against the property tax concerns from the school district and taxpayers.

Bob Schmidt, a member of the Nampa City Council and the Nampa Urban Renewal Agency Board, said if the urban renewal district is to continue to operate, it’s important that the school board support it.

He wants to meet with school board members. "What I would like to see is a joint meeting where we could get everything on the table and discuss what their concerns are," Schmidt said. "We could explore different avenues to help schools out."

At a meeting Tuesday, School Board Chairman Bob Henry expressed concern that the urban renewal district was drawing tax revenue away from schools. He also said the school board would at some point stake out its own position on extending the Nampa Urban Renewal Agency past its scheduled expiration in 2004.

Henry's comments were prompted by an exchange with members of the public who attended the meeting to express opposition to the continued existence of the taxing district.

Schmidt said the city is attempting to gather together detailed information -- whether negative or positive -- about how the urban renewal district affects the finances of other taxing districts, as well as individual homeowners. Nampa school trustees acknowledged there have been benefits to the city and the district from urban renewal. Urban renewal efforts have helped the school district with land acquisition, for instance.

Nampa Schools business manager Jon Allen indicated a joint effort between urban renewal and the district in the construction of a new elementary school in east
Nampa is worth pursuing.

City Council member Stephen Kren, who is also on the Urban Renewal Agency Board, said that type of cooperation has been important. "We have done things that have compensated (the Nampa School District) for loss of revenue," Kren said. Kren said the city is likely to put together an advisory board that will examine all issues related to the urban renewal district and then report back to the mayor and city council -- who will decide whether to keep the agency alive.

Nampa Mayor Tom Dale has said he wants to have an advisory vote of the public before extending the agency, although he has also spoken positively about urban renewal as a way to pay for important city projects. The final decision is with the city council.

After the comments made at the school board meeting, Dale released a statement detailing his response. "While acknowledging there are legitimate concerns with the North Nampa Urban Renewal Agency, I believe the agency is a valuable tool to continue helping the school district grow with our community," Dale said.

Dale also noted that the Urban Renewal Agency has paid for property for the school district and "has been a cooperative partner." "We have an open line of communication with the Nampa School District," the mayor said. "We are involved in discussions with them, and are working to maintain that spirit of positive cooperation."

Urban renewal The Nampa Urban Renewal Agency is scheduled to expire after 2004. Mayor Tom Dale favors its extension only with voters’ backing. He supports some projects he believes might win citizens’ favor and concedes that other funding options are limited without urban renewal.

Two of the mayor’s top priorities are an overpass at the Kings Corner railroad crossing and improvements to Garrity Boulevard. Coming Monday A look at projects the Caldwell East Urban Renewal Agency plans to support with its new budget.

Renewal projects Here are some projects included in the Nampa Urban Renewal Agency’s proposed budget for the upcoming financial year, which begins Oct. 1.

  • Economic development activities and property acquisitions, $1 million
  • Voluntary and involuntary demolition of abandoned houses in North Nampa, $200,000

  • Garrity Boulevard improvement plan (engineering and design for
    widening and beautification), $275,000
  • Kings Corner railroad overpass (engineering studies), $550,000
  • Optimist Park improvements, including paving of
    parking lot and installation of rest rooms, $500,000
  • Operational support for the Idaho Center, $668,000
  • Sugar Avenue bridge replacement, $225,000
  • Teen Late Night Program, Nampa Boys and Girls Club delinquency prevention program, $30,000
  • Indian Creek beautification project, $25,000
  • Voluntary abandoned car project, $5,000
  • Nampa Public Library, study of service needs and possible new site locations, $20,000.

Reprinted by permission of Idaho Press Tribune

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