The American-News welcomes letters of opinion from our readers.
The American-News welcomes letters of opinion from our readers. Letters regarding current local and national news items are encouraged. All letters are subject to editing for length and style. Letters containing potentially libelous or obscene statements will not be published. Letters must contain name, address and phone number for verification and in case of questions. E-mail letters to: firstname.lastname@example.org Letters may also be mailed to: Editor, Montevideo Publishing, P.O. Box 99, Montevideo, MN 56265
Whiskey or water?
“Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over,” a quotation often attributed to Mark Twain, and it is as relevant today as it was 150 years ago. Recently, Lincoln Pipestone Rural Water Systems (LPRW), a private utility company, has been exploring the parameters of the aquifer which lies under the city of Dawson, and under portions of Baxter, Cerro Gordo, Maxwell and Riverside Townships in Lac qui Parle County. LPRW is looking for property over the aquifer to develop a well field and build a water treatment plant. In the short run, LPRW intends to buy water from the city of Dawson, and after receiving an appropriation permit from the Department of Natural Resources, drill wells into the aquifer to supply water for its existing system and for further expansion. It has been reported that LPRW needs more water since the company is reaching Department of Natural Resources regulated and permitted water pumping levels. Consequently, there is a moratorium for any commercial expansion by LPRW in part of the area they serve.
LPRW’s expansion coupled with the immediate need to supply water to its system could be problematic for local areas. Problematic because the company’s expansion cannot be defined, and so future water usage cannot be determined. Thusly, balancing usage with local need is difficult, as evidenced by the existing moratorium on LPRW. Consequently, as water is pumped from aquifers located by LPRW, coupled with LPRW’s expansion, it is probable and likely that permitted threshold levels will be triggered again. This would lead to the imposition of future moratoriums which would be applied to local prospective private commercial enterprises needing water from aquifers located, explored, and tapped by LPRW. In short, future moratoriums could delay and halt commercial development in local areas until more water is found somewhere. Additionally, commercial enterprises, which might be attracted to an area because of the availability of water, may elect to establish their ventures anywhere else in LPRW’s service area since water can be piped from the ignored area’s aquifers. Pour another round...what’ll it be, whiskey or water?
2017 tax bill
In a recent letter to the editor, Rep. Steve Drazkowski overstated the impact the state’s 2017 tax bill will have on local government property tax levies.
First, it should be noted that only $15 million of the $650 million tax bill will be spent on Local Government Aid (LGA) for cities. While cities appreciate this modest boost, it does not make up for the massive LGA cuts of the 2000s. In fact, even with this increase, the LGA program still receives $30.5 million less in funding than in 2002, and that does not include factoring any inflation in the past 15 years.
Second, the slight LGA increase will not have the dramatic impact on city levies that Rep. Drazkowski seems to think it should. For example, a large increase in health insurance costs can easily swallow up the entire LGA increase a city receives, leaving little or no additional funding to cover other expenses.
Finally, Rep. Drazkowski notes the significant property tax relief for main street businesses. This is indeed something to celebrate; however, it represents the lowering of a state imposed tax and has no relevance on whether a city’s levy will or should go up or down.
LGA plays an important role in restraining property taxes and allowing cities to provide services, but it is just one of many factors that city officials take into account when setting levies. Just like every family’s finances are different, every community’s priorities and financial needs are different, and the varying levy increases and decreases across the state reflect these contrasts. Further, it is important to note that individual property taxes do not necessarily go up just because a city raises its levy. Factors such as new construction and the mix of property values in a city can result in lower property taxes even if the levy goes up.
Rep. Drazkowski appears to issue a warning to local governments: either lower property taxes in response to the tax bill’s small LGA increase or the entire LGA program could be in jeopardy. City leaders should not be intimidated by these comments. City officials - who understand their community’s unique needs - should base their budgeting decisions on what is best for their city, not a state lawmaker’s threats.