Fairfield Ledger
http://fairfield-ia.villagesoup.com/p/1134969

Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 31, 2014

Is proposed rec center and pool a bargain?

By Eric E. Stakland | Feb 27, 2014

To the editor:

The upcoming special election for the unincorporated area of Jefferson County will decide whether to help pay for the new indoor recreation facility and outdoor pool to be built in Fairfield. If approved, 16 percent of the county’s share of local option sales tax (LOST) revenue will be paid for the next 10 years to finance the project.

These funds are currently being allocated to property tax relief in unincorporated areas. If the proposal passes, rural residents will pay more in property taxes. But how much more?

As of the 2010 census, there were 1,894 households in the unincorporated areas of Jefferson County. Therefore, on average, a yearly $100,000 contribution to the pool and gym project will cost each household $52.80, about the cost of a tank of gas.

What will the proposed project cost your household? A yearly $100,000 contribution equals about 1 percent of the annual property taxes paid by rural residents in Jefferson County. So the yearly cost to your household will be about 1 percent of your current yearly property tax bill.

The financing structure helps make the project an attractive investment for rural residents:

• Fairfield will pay all maintenance and operating costs which over time will far exceed the initial cost of the building – typically user fees only cover about half these costs.

• No new debt is being incurred by the county – the city of Fairfield and private donors will pay costs of any borrowing.

• The county has structured a win-win for itself: Grants are capped at $10 million, so if LOST revenues increase above current levels, then the grants will stop before the 10-year mark; if LOST revenues drop, then the annual grant will also go down and end after ten years, even if the total contributed hasn’t reached $10.0 million.

Is the proposal a grand bargain? It may depend upon your point of view. Fundamentally, using LOST funds for tax relief is an uneven way to distribute benefits of the LOST funds because the property tax relief is allocated in proportion to the taxes assessed to each property owner. If the taxable value of your house is $100,000 and your neighbor’s homestead and farmland have a taxable value of $500,000, then under the current property tax relief program your neighbor is getting $5 in LOST funds for every dollar you receive. Maybe investing $100,000 per year in an asset everyone can enjoy equally isn’t a bad idea.

 

– Eric E. Stakland,

Penn Township

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