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Boise mulls plan to rearrange budgets to avoid “legal action” on Boise library

Boise Library Expansion

The City of Boise is formulating a plan that could mean a series of changes to change the funding for the Boise library campus project.

Right now, the project includes $30 million in so-called lease financing. Lease financing brings in another agency that can take on long-term debt for the project. The $30 million is a piece of the overall $85 million project budget.

During a presentation to the Boise City Council Tuesday during the annual budget workshop, Boise Chief Operating Officer Jade Riley put forward a reason for the proposed change. He said the city is confident in the lease financing option – but wants to avoid any possibility of legal action.

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“Anyone can take someone to court and tie up a project so we thought it made sense to look at an alternate funding strategy,” Riley said. “This would eliminate the potential for litigation and dragging the project out.”

What would change

Under the plan Riley and Shawn Wilson, the city’s capital projects manager laid out, an array of budgetary changes would cover the $30 million gap.

  • The city would take a $7.5 million draw from its cash flow reserve.
  • Because there would no longer need to be payments on the lease payments, the city would save $7 million.
  • The city would elect not to rebuild fire station number 5 – the Downtown Boise station. Instead, the city would take on a cheaper remodel project and retain the current building. This would save $5 million.
  • End of year savings from fiscal year 2019 would go into the pot – a total of $6 million.
  • A plan to purchase land for the Hillcrest branch library would not happen on schedule. The $1.5 million earmarked would be deferred.
  • $3 million from the capital fund would also go to the gap, mostly from vehicle replacement savings.

The replenish the general fund, the city would defer several projects it describes as minor. It would also make other changes, like leasing fire equipment instead of buying it outright.

Changes to the Hillcrest library plan?

Library director Kevin Booe emphasized that even if the Hillcrest plan is delayed, it won’t impact the overall commitment to the library.

“We have not abandoned that area,” Booe said. “It’s important to me to expand that library. We just expanded that branch and something we will continue in the foreseeable future.”

While the council did not take a vote on the plan, it seemed generally supportive. Several members expressed concern about the Hillcrest library portion of the plan.

“The $1.5 million I think we can find in other ways and keep the Hillcrest piece in line for 2023,” city council president Lauren McLean said. “I’d like to see the other options you’ve brainstormed as we put that out to the public. I don’t want to see us just move library funds from one area of town to Downtown.”

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