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Friday, May 29, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Post Falls defends handling of urban renewal refund money

Two critics of Idaho’s urban renewal tax district system – a state lawmaker and a Coeur d’Alene Realtor – are spreading false information about how Post Falls handles urban renewal dollars, the mayor and other city officials said Thursday.

“It is unfortunate when, during a political season, incorrect information such as this is mass produced and distributed,” Mayor Clay Larkin said in a statement.

He was referring to a recently circulated brochure from state Rep. Kathleen Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene, and Sharon Culbreth with Realteam Real Estate Center in Coeur d’Alene.

The brochure declares “urban renewal abuse is statewide,” and by way of example claims that $890,000 in “excess unspent funds” in the Post Falls Urban Renewal Agency “are being considered to fund city employee salary increases.”

That is “blatantly false,” City Administrator Shelly Enderud said. The money went into one-time capital expenses and capital reserves and never was considered for salaries or ongoing city expenses, she said.

“This would never even have so much as been discussed for that type of expense,” Enderud said Thursday. “We have a standing policy that one-time revenues would never be used for salaries.”

She provided a breakdown of how $892,000 rebated back from the East Post Falls Urban Renewal District was spent in the fiscal 2013 budget: $358,000 for street maintenance equipment, $350,000 for the facility replacement reserve fund and $184,000 for police vehicles and equipment, including new computers.

Sims, whose attempts to change state law related to urban renewal agencies have been rejected in the Legislature, said her claim is based on a Aug. 1, 2012, article in the Coeur d’Alene Press about a city budget workshop. That article mentioned wage increases for police and other city workers as well as how council members intended to use the urban renewal rebate.

Enderud said those were completely separate issues – the wage increases had nothing to do with the discussion about the one-time urban renewal rebate.

Sims acknowledged Thursday that she did not contact the city to verify the information was accurate before she produced the brochure. “Why would I do that?” she said, adding that she trusts what she read was correct.

The rebate to the city and other taxing districts was related to a change in the scope of the upcoming Greensferry overpass project on Interstate 90.

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