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Dalton Gardens a unique place

by MAUREEN DOLAN
Staff Writer | December 16, 2010 8:00 PM

Editor's note: You can't put a price tag on quality of life in any given city, but you can do some simple math and figure out about what each city spends on its residents.

The Press offers an informal but, we hope, interesting series that looks at the budgets of Kootenai County cities and determines how those budgets translate into per-resident spending.

DALTON GARDENS - The 2.4-square-mile town of Dalton Gardens sits on the eastern side of Kootenai County, nestled at the foot of Canfield Mountain between Coeur d'Alene and Hayden.

Dalton Gardens is unique because all of its residential lots are at least one acre, leaving plenty of room for big gardens, farm animals and pole barns.

"We have a nice rural atmosphere. That's a priority. That's what makes Dalton Gardens what it is," said City Council member Steve Roberge. "We're up-to-date, but it's kind of a throwback, a unique place."

The city's commercial district is a small strip that runs mainly along Government Way. There are no restaurants or large retail businesses.

"People like the rural feel, and we're very much smack dab in the middle of everything," said city clerk Marcia Wingfield.

According to the Association of Idaho Cities, Dalton Gardens' estimated population in 2009 was 2,392.

The city's budgeted regular expenditures for this fiscal year are $541,454, translating into $226.36 spent per resident for the year. That's 62 cents per day.

"We have one of the lowest levy rates in the state of Idaho," said Mayor Dan Franklin.

According to the Idaho Tax Commission, Dalton Gardens' levy rate of .05 percent is 186th out of 191 city taxing districts.

Franklin said the city's approach to the budget is "very conservative."

"Everything we do, we look at other sources of revenue," Franklin said.

The recent Hanley Road improvement project is a good example of that. The project was funded with a combination of federal stimulus dollars and other state and federal money.

Local property taxes account for $114,153 of the city's $541,454 budgeted regular expenses. Funds from the state through city revenue sharing, business licenses and fees, and franchise fees from Avista and Time Warner make up most of the rest of the city's operating budget.

The city's regular expenses are low because Dalton Gardens does not have a police department or road department.

The Kootenai County Sheriff's Department and Kootenai County Fire and Rescue provide service to Dalton Gardens. There is no contractual fee agreement between the city and the county law enforcement agency.

Wingfield said Dalton Gardens supports the sheriff's department in other ways. Most recently, the city purchased high-power flashlights for deputies to use.

The city does receive some revenue from the arrangement.

"A portion of any ticket that is written in Dalton Gardens comes back to us from the courts," Wingfield said.

Lakes Highway District is contracted by the city to provide annual road maintenance like snow removal. There is roughly $35,000 in this year's budget for the highway district.

There is another $750,000 the city has budgeted for 2011, bringing the total budget to $1.3 million. Those funds are not included in the calculation of the regular property tax levy rate because they will be used for a potential local improvement district project that will provide sewer service to the city's commercial properties. Further, the project hasn't been approved.

If the project is approved by the council, the city will borrow funds from the state to complete the work. Once the job is done, commercial property owners who benefit from the improvement will pay for the project through a separate tax rate.

There are no plans to move the city's residential areas off septic service.

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