Four ways Boise City Hall wastes your tax dollars

By Lindsay Atkinson | SMART Boise project leader

Officials in Idaho’s capital love spending money to make Boise the most livable city in the country. Even while Boiseans are losing the homes they have lived in for decades, fighting rapidly growing taxes, and trying to keep up in a housing market that has flooded with buyers, the city takes more and more money from them. 

The city increases property taxes, raises fees for city services, and gobbles up more and more hard-earned dollars with the justification that the way city officials spend residents’ money makes life more livable than if they had that money to spend for themselves.

SMART Boise, a project of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, undertook a study of city spending, to track how Boiseans’ tax dollars are being used. SMART Boise identified more than $144 million that Boise officials spent to make Boise more livable that can actually be categorized as pretty laughable spending. 

The upside of these findings: City officials can immediately tackle rising taxes by cutting out some of this wasteful spending.

Below are just four examples of expenses that the Boise city government could cut out to immediately save residents some money. 

  1. In 2019, the city of Boise gave $10,000 to the Treefort Music Festival. Even with the subsidy, the five-day-long festival was not a “free” event. Entry to the March festival cost anywhere from $30 to $365. The city does not need to subsidize music festivals with taxpayer money. If residents want to attend the festival, they can use their own money to buy a ticket.
  2. The city spent more than $1 million to commission more than a dozen new art installations in the last year. With all the problems city residents are facing right now, artwork should not be a top priority, let alone a $1 million priority.
  3. The city and its urban renewal agency, the Capital City Development Corporation, spent millions of dollars in the last few years to subsidize wealthy developers who built condos in the downtown. Now that these condos have been constructed, they are being sold for some $600,000 each. Is this sort of housing really what Boiseans need right now?
  4. Before ever asking voter approval on the proposed new main library project, city officials devoted more than $13 million just towards its design. The project is now only coming up for a vote because of the work of residents collecting signatures to get a vote on the November ballot. With all this wasteful spending, residents should clearly get more input into how their tax dollars are used.

Learn more about these examples and other ways the city can cut out waste by downloading our report “Are You Kidding Me, Boise?” at

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