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  • Writer's pictureBruce Mattare

How Legislators Can Help Counties from Having Costs Shifted Onto Them from Cities

Problem: Cities are their own taxing districts and can grow outside of county comprehensive plans, yet are NOT required to pay for the cost of law enforcement services within the incorporated limits. When a city decides to not provide law enforcement services, that cost burden is then shifted onto the County Sheriff and (by default) the county taxpayer.

To begin with, cities are their own unique entities that circumvent county planning. Those unique factors include:

  • Creating their own comprehensive growth plan that can circumvent the county's long term plan

  • Offering a variety of services to their citizens that go above and beyond the county's statutory obligations

  • Creation of a government entity (i.e., mayor and city council)

  • The ability to pass ordinance

  • And the ability to raise revenues through taxation.

Often the mayor is considered the chief administrator official and is responsible for enforcing city ordinance and preserving order. This is enshrined in statute.

Further, if the mayor needs help, he or she can call on every resident in the city over twenty-one (21) years of age to aid in enforcing the laws. One can make the reasonable argument that the mayor is the Chief Law Enforcement Official (CLEO) within the city limits.

However, Sheriffs are required by statute to provide law enforcement services in all places throughout the county. This is where the responsibilities become blurred.

Mayors are responsible for preserving order per statute, but the county Sheriff is also responsible. This allows for a loophole where cities can tax and grow but shift the law enforcement cost onto the county. This needs to be fixed.

Most cities recognize this and either create and maintain their own police departments or contract with the Sheriff. However, many cities do not and are happy to keep the law enforcement cost on the county taxpayer while developing autonomous growth plans and raising revenues through taxation for their own projects.

In Kootenai County, examples of this are in the cities of Huetter and State Line, where both places are incorporated, both have issued liquor licenses, and both require excessive law enforcement calls for service as a result of these activities. The city gets the tax revenue benefits from these licenses while passing the cost of these activities onto county tax payers.

This is where the Idaho Legislature can clarify the statute so that by virtue of incorporating the city is responsible for paying for its law enforcement and if the Sheriff is required to provide such services that it have the ability to be reimbursed through tax receipts collected by the county treasurer.

Proposed Amendment to Idaho Statute Title 50 Chapter 6

Whereas an incorporated city is a self-governing power as per Idaho 50-301

Whereas an incorporated city is a local taxing district and can impose a tax levy on real property. Idaho 50-235.

Whereas an incorporated city has a general provision of Powers of Policemen. The policemen of every city, should any be appointed, shall have power to arrest all offenders against the law of the state, or of the city, by day or by night, in the same manner as the sheriff or constable. Whenever such policemen shall be in fresh pursuit of any offender against any law of the state, including traffic infractions, or of the city and the offense has been committed within the corporate limits of such city, such policemen, while in such fresh pursuit may go beyond the corporate or geographical limits of such city subject to the provisions of chapter 7, title 19, Idaho Code, for the purpose of making such arrest or citation. Idaho Statute 50-209. [This means cities were meant to have Policemen with special powers identified in Idaho Statute?]

Whereas an incorporated city has the power to tax for a Policeman’s Retirement Fund. Idaho Statute 50-1501. [I believe this means that cities were intended to have a police department or contract with the Sheriff?]

Whereas an incorporated city has a statutory requirement to conduct long term comprehensive land use plan, which may or may not be consistent with the county the city resides within.

Whereas the incorporated city mayor is the designated administrative official. The mayor, except as provided in sections 50-801 through 50-812[, Idaho Code], shall be the chief administrative official of the city, preside over the meetings of the city council and determine the order of business subject to such rules as the council may prescribe, have a vote only when the council is equally divided, have the superintending control of all the officers and affairs of the city, preserve order, and take care that the ordinances of the city and provisions of this act are complied with and enforced. Idaho Statute 50-602. [I believe this means the mayor is responsible for enforcing the law, in essence the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the incorporated territory?]

Whereas the incorporated city mayor is given Police Powers per Idaho Statute 50-606. The mayor shall have such jurisdiction as may be vested in him by ordinance over all places within the corporate limits of the city, for the enforcement of any health or quarantine ordinance and regulation thereof, and shall have jurisdiction in all matters vested in him by ordinance, except taxation, within the corporate limits of said city and over such properties as may be owned by the city without the corporate limits per Idaho Statute 50-606. [I believe the mayor is given explicit police powers within the corporate city limits?]

Whereas the mayor shall have and exercise such powers, prerogatives and authority as is conferred by the laws of the state of Idaho or as may be conferred upon him by the city council, and shall have the power to administer oaths, and shall sign all contracts and conveyances in the name of and on behalf of the city. Idaho Statute 50-607. [The mayor clearly has the power to administer oaths.]

Whereas the incorporated city MAYOR MAY REQUIRE AID IN ENFORCING LAW per Idaho Statute 50-609. The mayor is hereby authorized to call on every resident in the city over twenty-one (21) years of age to aid in enforcing the laws. Idaho Statute 50-609 [By virtue of having the ability to administer an oath, the mayor can call upon able-bodied people to help him/her in enforcing the laws in the city?]

Whereas these statutes combined suggest that the mayor of an incorporated city is the chief administrative officer that has the exclusive power to enforce laws within the corporate limits of the city and to either have or not have a police department, have or not have a police retirement fund that can levy a tax on real property, to call upon and administer oaths of citizens 21 or older to aid in enforce laws within the city, and is the primary person responsible for law enforcement.

Whereas the incorporated city has the power to confine a person for breaking local ordinance. Any person charged with or convicted of violation of a city ordinance and subject to imprisonment shall be confined in the city jail; provided, however, that any city shall have the right to use the jail of the county for the confinement of such persons but it shall be liable to the county for the cost of keeping such prisoners. Idaho Statute 50-302A

Thereby, Idaho statute should be clarified to state explicitly that the incorporated city requires the mayor to enforce laws within the corporate jurisdiction, and that the Sheriff will enforce the laws within an incorporated city limit, but has the discretion to request reimbursement for such costs in lieu of the mayor performing this function.

Proposed Amendment to Idaho Statute 50-609:

Current Reading 50-609: MAYOR MAY REQUIRE AID IN ENFORCING LAW. The mayor is hereby authorized to call on every resident in the city over twenty-one (21) years of age to aid in enforcing the laws.

Proposed Amendment 50-609: MAYOR MAY REQUIRE AID IN ENFORCING LAW. The mayor is hereby authorized to call on every resident in the city over twenty-one (21) years of age to aid in enforcing the laws. If the mayor relies on the county Sheriff to enforce the law, and there is no law enforcement contract in place, then the County Sheriff shall have the right to reimbursement at cost for the law enforcement services provided. The Sheriff shall submit a regular bill for all services provided to any incorporated city. If the city fails to reimburse the county, then the County Treasurer may withhold and disburse all city tax revenues received for any outstanding and unpaid bills to the County for said law enforcement services provided, with the balance of such tax revenues then disbursed to the incorporated city taxing authority.

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