County residents to vote on $1 million for pool, gym project
Jefferson County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed today to ask county residents to vote on $1 million toward a new outdoor pool and gym to be built in Fairfield, and approved giving $3,000 to Fairfield’s RAGBRAI executive committee.
Last week, the supervisors listened to members of the pool and gym task force and discussed financing options with the board’s financial advisor.
The best funding option seemed to be changing the designation of part of the 80 percent of Local Option Sales Tax revenue directed at property tax relief.
The county uses 20 percent of L.O.S.T. funds for bridges and culvert improvements and will not change that percentage.
“By law, we cannot fund such a project out of the rural funds when we are specifically targeting county residents in the unincorporated areas of Jefferson County,” said supervisor Dick Reed.
The supervisors did not want to ask the entire county to approve this funding because Fairfield residents already agreed to have the city bond for $3 million toward the project, and would be “paying twice” if the county included Fairfield residents, too.
Last week, the amount discussed by the supervisors had been $500,000, though Reed had originally suggested $1 million two weeks ago.
“I had several calls from constituents since last week in favor of the vote and I understand more about the project from the discussion we had with task force members,” said supervisor Becky Schmitz.
Task force spokesman Dan Breen said $1 million is more proportionate to the population in the unincorporated area when Fairfield residents are funding $3 million.
“Basically, you’re raising property taxes,” said an audience member.
Supervisor chairman Lee Dimmitt said the board is not raising property taxes, but diverting a percentage, around 20 percent, from the 80 percent of L.O.S.T. that goes to property tax relief.
“So instead of 80 percent going to property tax relief, 60 percent will be going to property tax relief,” said Dimmitt.
It’s estimated the deduction in tax relief is $14 per $100,000 evaluation for residences and $16 for agricultural land.
“I had a conversation with Tracy Vance [Fairfield Economic Development Association executive director] and he’s looked into accessing interest-free dollars for this from Access Energy,” said Dimmitt. “A million dollars could be paid off in 10 years.”
The supervisors said the money from the county, if approved by voters, would only be in play if the task force raises enough to reach $10 million. Before the county’s $1 million, the task force is still looking to raise $4 million.
“And the county would return to using the full 80 percent of L.O.S.T. for property tax relief as soon as the borrowed money is paid back,” said Dimmitt.
Breen said if the task force does not reach raising $10 million, it would re-evaluate.
“The project does not stop,” said Breen. “We’d have to re-look the project.
“A new pool and gym will contribute more L.O.S.T.,” said Breen. “We don’t know the amount, but those two amenities will keep contributing to the local option sales tax beyond the 10 years of pay-back for this $1 million. In fact, it could be payback won’t even take 10 years. The project will generate new money coming into the county, and it will keep growing. We don’t want to over-promise anything, so we haven’t mentioned any amount, but a new gym will bring traveling teams to play here, and families spend money in the community when they attend tournaments.
“A new pool will keep our own residents here and attract people from surrounding communities,” he said.
A date has not been set for a vote for unincorporated areas of the county, but it could be in August.
Marilyn Cannon, a member of Fairfield’s RAGBRAI executive committee, asked the board of supervisors to consider contributing $10,000 toward RAGBRAI.
“We’d like $10,000, but we’d be tickled with $5,000 and perhaps some in-kind contributions, such as barricades from the roads department or law enforcement hours from the sheriff’s office,” she said.
Fairfield City Administrator Kevin Flanagan said the city council’s Ways and Means Committee planned to recommend the city contribute $10,000 to RAGBRAI at tonight’s city council meeting.
“I know you need money to set up a web page and for practical things such as portable toilets and trash collection,” said Reed. “I realize you need seed money to make money.
“But we’ve already done our budget for next year and won’t give money for ‘feel good’ reasons,” said Reed. “Do you have a budget with costs? This is taxpayers’ money you’re asking for. Don’t you think you’d get more from me if you showed me a budget? For us to be responsible, we need an amount.”
Cannon said the executive committee is overseeing 22 committees and each committee has been asked to submit a budget, but they were not that far along yet. She said there will be expenses for reserving campgrounds, paying for electricity for vendors and signing contracts.
“RAGBRAI is very good about recommending budgets, and we are meeting with Webster City in a few weeks,” said Cannon. “They were an overnight host last year. They will share with us what they learned in the experience.”
Schmitz and Reed agreed RAGBRAI is an economic development opportunity.
“Using the formula Kevin [Flanagan] talks about, if the city is giving $10,000 and the county represents one-third of the population, we should give $3,000,” said Dimmitt.
Reed said $3,000 was a good starting amount.
“If you get in trouble, you can always come back to us and ask again,” he said.