Meridian CC Update
Updated: Oct 28
It's that time of year! We just wrapped up our municipal budget, let's do a recap on how we are making progress (or have more work left to do!) in Meridian this past year. First up, we will talk about the goal of representing Meridian residents and giving them a strong voice in all that we do.
Represent Meridian Residents
It is critical for our citizens to have a strong voice in their local government. From hundreds of conversations, I know residents want a bigger voice, especially with the amount of growth we are experiencing.
Part of listening to residents is following through. Every year we gather feedback in a lot of different ways. We send city surveys, ask more in-depth questions in listening sessions (e.g. during the adoption of our new Comprehensive Plan, we engaged deeply with the residents of Meridian on what growth should look like in our community), and get a lot of direct feedback in emails, phone calls, and townhall meetings.
I am excited to say that in response to residents' concerns we are putting public safety front and center, adding new ways for residents to have a direct impact on their neighborhoods and finally putting some of the feedback on our development process (Meridian residents want smart growth that will stand the test of time) to work through changes big and small.
Some new changes are in store this year in response to residents' direct feedback:
Participatory Budgeting Program - this neighborhood grants program allows you to have a direct impact on your neighborhood through projects big and small. Find out how to put your ideas in to motion by emailing Jodi St. Martin at the city: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comprehensive Plan Changes - the FLUM (future land use map) is the guiding document in the comprehensive plan that tells residents and developers the types of real estate uses that we expect to see in different areas of the city in the future. Changes to the map are important because they impact us for years to come. The City Council recently limited FLUM map changes / comprehensive plan changes to predictable times during the year.
Development Code - Big changes to our development code are underway. I'll give us a ding for taking a long time to get this done, but it's important to get this right because these changes will impact generations of Meridian in the future. We will do a deeper dive on this in a future blog post on Smart Growth. The important thing is that we are listening to what the residents of Meridian are asking for - density in transportation corridors where it makes sense, adequate open space standards, a balance of business opportunities and jobs with residential growth, a vibrant downtown, and quality amenities. At the same time, we need to ensure that Meridian continues to grow our housing stock, and provides an environment where outcomes and processes are predictable and consistent for developers and business owners.
Getting Pro-Active on Growth - Public Safety Front and Center - Finally one of the areas where Meridian residents take great pride is in the need to continue to resource our quality community policing and fire services to ensure that they can respond in time, are engaged in the community, and effective while we continue to grow. In this year's budget, I supported expanding our Fire services by building two critical fire stations: one in North Meridian and one in South Meridian in addition to remodeling our main Police Station and building a new precinct.
It is not ideal financially for the city to build multiple stations at once, and I want to acknowledge that fact. Going forward, it is critical to hold the City Council and myself accountable for following our priority growth areas, a new initiative to prioritize growth in certain geographic areas so the city infrastructure can keep up.
Need to work on: Engaging with the Legislature on Property Taxes - residents of Meridian are frustrated by the shift of the property tax burden from commercial development to residential. In addition, the legislature recently passed a bill that limits the amount of new construction that comes onto the property tax rolls. We need to continue to engage with our legislators, and I hope that you will too. But although we are reaching out, engagement is a two way street. In my frank opinion, the Idaho Legislature is greatly underestimating the intelligence of voters who realize a few things:
1) Residential real estate prices in Idaho are out of control, and they are paying more than their fair share vs. commercial development.
2) The Idaho Legislature messed up by not indexing the homeowner's exemption to inflation, instead allowing it to fall behind. Then they made changes to the circuit breaker program negatively impacting our elders who are on fixed incomes.
3) Growth is not paying it's fair share - the new bill is actually resulting in INCREASED property taxes because now new construction does not come on at it's full value when it is added to the tax base. Our city is raising taxes to make up for a shortfall in new construction revenue as a direct result of the legislature's actions.
Frankly, I believe that the City of Meridian provides a compelling value in terms of the city services that residents get for their taxes, and that the Legislature should stop spending all their time and resources on City Business. We continue to reach out to our legislators to offer to be part of the solution.
We will continue to voice your concerns, but I encourage you to reach out directly to your representatives at the Legislature on this issue and please ask for cities to be included in their discussions to achieve common-sense tax reform.
Whew! That was a lot of information. If you have any questions please reach out! The next blog post will cover Smart Growth.
The growth in Meridian needs to work for us in the long-run, with high quality development patterns limiting sprawl, meeting the needs of residents and businesses, and protecting our quality of life.
Long Term Sustainability
Sustainability means long-term, cost-effective decisions that make good use of taxpayer money, protect our resources, and resilience planning for when challenges come our way. I am a vocal supporter of the need to be strong stewards of our natural resources and the importance of efficient and cost-saving technologies as we scale up.
Family Wage Jobs & Workforce Development
Housing is just one side of the equation: we need to preserve and create new family wage jobs here.