As a City, we are dedicated to being a premier community to live, work and raise a family. We provide a safe and caring atmosphere focused on families with excellent education, recreation, and entertainment opportunities. This is through our great relationships with key stakeholders and our efforts to remain fiscally responsible. We have done well by proactively saving before spending for critical services and large-scale projects. This type of planning has allowed us to remain a debt free city.
On June 15, we had our first budget workshop to review my proposed Fiscal Year 2022 budget. Meridian City Council and employees discussed the budget and the needs of the City. It’s important that our taxpaying residents and businesses understand what is being requested, and why, in order to meet the service needs of our growing community.
To remain safe, public safety is of the upmost importance. My budget asks for our additional police officers and non-sworn police personnel. In the budget, I also ask City Council to move up a fire station that is planned to open in 2025, and build it alongside the one planned to open in 2023, and provide funding for two police substations. The police and fire stations would co-locate on the same property; one proposed in south Meridian near Discovery Park and one in the north near Owyhee High School. A key metric for evaluating the need for additional fire stations is response time. Meridian Fire’s average response time is currently at 6 minutes and 35 seconds. This is beyond our goal of 5 minutes; and this is after an additional one minute from the time the calls come into the stations. We need to bring down our response times to meet our current goals. For our police officers, substations will bring patrol units much closer to residents in the north and south of Meridian. Currently, patrol officers spend 25% of their day on administrative work at the police department. These substations will allow officers to be geographically closer to where they write reports so there will be less travel time and more time on our roads patrolling and out in the community answering calls for service.
Our Parks and Recreation Department has been, and will be, busy for years to come. Besides planning for improvements with several pathways, a large need is for the Lakeview Golf Course that the City is now managing through a relationship with Western Ada Recreation District (WARD). We will be transitioning Lakeview Golf Course fully to the City over the next few years and more information can be found HERE. Many of the budget needs for the Lakeview Golf Club cover three main areas, including maintenance equipment, irrigation system updates and to ensure ADA compliance.
Another large Parks and Recreation project is Discovery Park Phase 2, located in south Meridian. The first phase was 27 acres and opened in 2019. The second phase will have four new areas including an active area for a variety or sports, multi-use fields, a teen zone as well as a bike park area. Ultimately this park is planned to be 77 acres and will be a destination in South Meridian, similar to Settlers and Kleiner. I look forward to moving forward with the next phase of development for additional recreation opportunities for this growth priority area.
Meridian has a long history of saving funds before we spend, using impact fees towards large capital projects, and having growth pay for itself. We look at our budget holistically and are fiscally responsible for the benefit of the taxpayers. Because of changes made by the Idaho legislature this year, Meridian is limited in our ability to receive the full value of new construction revenue, which previously ensured that growth paid for itself. For this reason, the City will have to consider using some of the allowable property tax increase this year, to ensure the services you receive are not diminished.
You can watch our first budget workshop HERE. Our second budget workshop is tomorrow, Tuesday, June 29th and we will further answer Council’s questions and continue to discuss the proposed budget. Meridian City Council will ultimately decide on a total budget number that will be published to the public, and then we will hold a public hearing for community members to share perspective in August. I encourage you to provide feedback on this budget, this is your city.
Ultimately, our success is because of our involved citizens, businesses and civic groups who recognize and support the traditions and values of our community. We have common sense fiscal management of the valuable taxpayer dollars we are entrusted with which has us in a strong financial position. We are committed to the infrastructure improvements necessary to provide efficient and effective services. These factors contribute to the premier quality of life we all enjoy. For those reasons, I am confident in our ability to deliver these needed and expected services now to our community.