We all know money is tight and nobody lightly proposes a fee increase, but we'd like you to think of this as an investment, one that helps you and others get around safely and efficiently.
Why is ACHD seeking an Ada County Vehicle Registration Fee increase?
Record-setting growth; Idaho is the fastest-growing state in the nation and Ada County is leading the way. The money from an expanded fee will build projects to help those who drive, walk and cycle.
How much would this cost?
The average owner would see an annual fee increase of $18 -- about a nickel a day. Currently, owners of cars one or two years old pay $40, and owners of vehicles three to six years old cars pay $36, and owners of vehicles seven or more years old pay $24 in local registration fees. (The fee is in addition to the State of Idaho registration fees, which are $69, $57 and $45, respectively.) The proposal would raise the local fees to $70 for a new car, $63 for one three to six years old, and $42 for one that's seven or more years old. The average vehicle on county roads is a 2009 model.
Also, vehicles carrying passengers for hire and school buses, identified in Idaho Code 49-402(2), would pay $28; motorcycle and terrain vehicles owners would pay $14, if the proposal is approved by voters. Currently, those fees are $16, and $8, respectively.
Why aren't developers paying for the impacts of growth?
They are, as ACHD charges the impact fees allowed under Idaho law on all new homes, stores and commercial and industrial buildings to pay for the new roadway features needed to serve the growth. But part of any roadway expansion legally must be underwritten by local tax dollars.
For example, the expansion of a rural, two-lane road to a five-lane facility with sidewalks and bike lanes is certainly impact-fee eligible, but development cannot be legally charged to upgrade the existing lanes.
Also, an increased registration fee can ensure that ACHD gets the most impact fees allowed by law. The details of impact fees are complicated but the basic concept is simple: ACHD must forecast growth over the next 20 years and plan to build the new and expanded roads, intersections and bridges that are needed. The current Capital Improvements Plan totals $841 million, and more than half of that -- $478 million -- is to be covered by impact fees. Each new home, store or factory must pay its share of that tab, which creates the individual impact fees paid by each development.
As mentioned above, only portions of the new facilities can be charged to growth. But the law requires ACHD to contribute tax dollars to each expansion because some of the improvements would be needed independent of the recent development. ACHD has not had enough funding for the full local match in recent years, which means that some projects that should have been in the capital plan (about $37 million) have been delayed. That forces reductions in the 20-year building plan -- and ultimately, development gets a discount.
More money from registration fees will ensure ACHD can fund the full local match and that development is charged the maximum allowed by law.
What would the money be spent on?
The funds (estimated to be $7.5 million) will only be spent on projects to fight traffic congestion, to build major road improvements and to create sidewalk, bike lane and Safe Routes to School improvements. Please see the ballot language.
Congestion relief projects would include new vehicle detectors and signal timing hardware to improve traffic flow, as well as new turn lanes at busy intersections. Major road improvements would include corridor expansions of State Street from Boise to Eagle and Linder Road from Eagle to Meridian.
The community projects would include sidewalk, bike lane and Safe Routes to School projects to increase non-automotive options for students and others to get around. The Leadville and Shamrock bikeways are examples of some of the larger work in this category. Please see this status report on fee-funded, community projects from 2010 through 2017.
What happens if the fees are rejected?
Some planned and proposed projects would have to be delayed, if not eliminated.
ACHD's capital budget, which funds building projects, has averaged about $50 million annually in recent years. Approving the expanded fee would provide a $7.5 million boost to the yearly building program and help keep pace with growth and the rising cost of construction.
Why aren't commercial vehicles included
ACHD must follow state law, which does not allow local registration fees on any vehicle over 8,000 pounds (Idaho Code 40-1416 and 49-402). The larger vehicles are covered by different laws, 49-434 and 49-435.
Some have suggested that ACHD and others amend state law before seeking a fee increase. While amending the law seems like a good idea, it is also something that can be pursued independent of the election, which can allow fee-funded projects to progress while the legislation moves through the Statehouse.
Why aren't bicyclists paying a registration fee?
There is nothing in state law to allow this. Also, the vast majority of cyclists also own cars (statistically, more than 95 percent), so these roadway users are paying their share.
Can we charge newcomers to Idaho an entrance fee or some kind of extra registration fee?
Not allowed by state law.
Why does a new car cost more than an older one? Older cars use the roads the same way as newer ones.
That's a fair point. ACHD must follow the state law allowing registration fees, which ties this to the state's fee system, which charges based on vehicle age.
Aren't Ada County's fees too high already?
Ada's fees are more than surrounding Idaho counties because we're the only ones to have voted to increase them -- for better driving, walking and riding. But compared to surrounding states, our combined state and local fees are generally a bargain. The fee is Montana is $217 for a newer car, while the Seattle Times reports that a 2011 Volvo cost $396.75 to register earlier this year, based on state and local fees.
What about cheaters, who live in Ada County but register their cars outside the county?
The Ada County Assessor is working on this, investigating those who claim a homeowner's exception on their property in our county but have their vehicles registered elsewhere.
Is there a punishment for a newcomer who does not register their vehicle in Idaho?
Yes, it's an infraction that carries a fine of up to $300.
When is the election?
November 6, 2018 at your regular polling place; this question will appear toward the end of the ballot. The polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and more information about your polling place and the election can be found on the Ada County Elections Office elections page.
How often would I pay the fee if it passes?
Each year when you register your vehicle.
Who supports this?
The Ada County Highway District Commission, the Ada County Regional REALTORS, the Associated General Contractors, the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, and the Building Contractors Association, so far. See a more detailed list here.