If they build it, the taxes will come
Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa County. Home of the House on the Rock, Lands End in Dodgeville, and the New Glarus Primrose Winery. Funny how such a bucolic county could be the home of such rancor, but even here the rapacious appetite of government is in direct conflict with the interests of the people. This week at the MacIver Institute, a look at the new Health and Human Services office building that nobody wants except eleven members of the county board.
To pay for the new building, the Iowa County Board voted to issue $6.1 million in general obligation county building bonds. From the State Trust Fund, the county would borrow $789,000. To reduce the interest costs of the borrowing, the county will receive a subsidy of 45% of the interest cost of the State Trust Fund loan each year from the federal stimulus money, $87,562 over ten years.
The cost of the debt gets passed onto the taxpayers. They can expect a property tax levy increase of $.40/$1000 of assessed value. The average family will see an increase in their taxes of $900 over ten years.
More importantly, the tax will fall hard on commercial and agriculture properties, already hit hard by the depressed real estate market and poor economy. Walnut Hollow, a Dodgeville-based company that distributed woodworking items and tools through the Internet, has already had to cut back their workforce, leaving an empty 12,5000 square foot building. Walnut Hollow will end up paying $28,000 over ten years in new taxes on the empty building if they cannot sell.
And remember the House on the Rock? According to Marketing Manager Matt Schneider, this famous tourist attraction (and employer of 200 people during the peak season) will pay an additional $10,000 per year in taxes. They have plans for expansion, but will have to scale them back if the Iowa County Board continues its course.
In response to the Board’s decision, a new citizen group formed, Concerned Citizens of Iowa County. They attempted to force the issue to referendum last fall. They believed they needed 900 petition signatures. In less than four days, the group gathered 2151 signatures, 26.4% of the voters in the last election for governor. County Supervisor John Meyers (an opponent of the new Health and Human Services building) says, “We had people calling all over looking for the petitions to sign.”
They thought the petitions would be enough to force the issue to referendum. However, the County Board has so far avoided even considering the petitions.
Supervisor Meyers said they tried to force the issue for consideration by bringing it up at the Land Conservation Committee. However, the issue was delayed after it was to be referred to Corporate Counsel, and then to outside counsel, by County Board Chairman Mark Masters.
Meyers said there is a strong reason why they won’t allow the new building to go to referendum – it would not pass.
“You know you don’t have the support but still you go ahead. It’s just crazy.” He added, “They figure it fail in a referendum, so they don’t want public input at all.”