Hayden OKs language on ballot request

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Hayden City Council members voted Tuesday to accept the final wording of a flyer asking voters to raise taxes on themselves to pay for more law enforcement in the city.

The city will ask voters in the Nov. 5 election to increase their Hayden property taxes by approximately 21 percent, which for a $300,000 home means an increase of approximately $4.23 per month.

Despite a 3-1 vote in favor of the latest version of the flyer that will be sent to residents, council members took pains Tuesday to not advocate for the tax increase. Dick Panabaker, however, decried the idea that a property tax increase is unnecessary and that law enforcement in Hayden is adequate.

Citing a study that shows the county’s population doubling in the next 20 years, Panabaker said anyone who refuses to accept tax increases to accommodate future needs “is either not well informed, pretty naive, or lying.”

Panabaker is among Hayden council members to support a finding by a committee that supports doubling the city’s police presence by adding four deputies at a cost of $403,506.

Like Dalton Gardens, the city contracts with the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement, and because one of the four deputies now assigned to Hayden is a school resource officer part of the time, the school district pays half of the cost for that deputy.

But council member Matt Roetter said statistics show serious crime in Hayden isn’t going up. He proposed adding two deputies instead of four based on what he said is a downward trend in high level crimes.

“They show a downward trend in severe crimes and a slight upward trend in less severe crimes,” Roetter said.

Crime statistics compiled by the Sheriff’s Office showed an increase in aggravated assaults in Hayden from nine to 14 cases between 2012 and 2018, an increase in DUI cases from 74 to 96 and an increase in drug cases from 153 to 255.

Auto burglaries, however, dropped from 78 to 38 over the same period, residential burglaries dropped from 72 to 12, and theft dropped from 340 cases to 226. Vandalism cases dropped from 118 to 53, and weapon offenses went from five cases in 2012 to two last year.

Hayden Mayor Steve Griffitts has said the statistics don’t show the whole picture because they don’t go back far enough to capture what he said is an upward trend in crime rates since 2007.

In a Press letter to the editor, Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger agreed with Roetter that Hayden’s serious crime rate is down, but because of the county’s growth more deputies will likely be required in the long run.

“The purpose of these additional deputies has always been to enhance the coverage for the City of Hayden,” Wolfinger wrote. “This is being proactive instead of reactive.”

More deputies will be needed, Wolfinger said, “to maintain the enhanced coverage that the city has desired along with the quality of life Hayden residents have come to enjoy.”

Roetter on Tuesday voted against the latest language of the city’s flyer. Roetter cited a comparison in which the cost of Hayden’s law enforcement is weighed up with cities that have police departments, instead of with communities like Hayden that contract services.

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