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Supervisors look at Excel! Estherville

By Staff | May 7, 2008

The Emmet County Board of Supervisors Tuesday heard a presentation on a proposed 1-cent sales tax from representatives of Excel! Estherville.

While agreeing to the benefits of the added penny, the supervisors indicated they needed time to determine where additional money could be spent in the county.

The Estherville City Council Monday night unanimously endorsed the proposed tax. All municipalities and rural residents in the county would vote on the tax with the exception of Armstrong and Ringsted which both approved the levy in 1997. Estherville residents turned down the tax in that election 876-377. In the same election, Dolliver approved the measure 17-11 and Wallingford 32-14. However, both those communities later repealed the tax.

Had Estherville approved the tax, it would have been receiving $475,000 in additional revenues yearly.

Bill Bumgarner of Excel! Estherville presented the proposal to the supervisors at Tuesday’s meeting. Bumgarner said most Iowa counties have invested in the additional 1-cent sales tax.

“We believe it’s an opportunity for all of Emmet County to bring dollars forward for investment,” Bumgarner said. “We think this will be beneficial for all of our county.”

Each municipality, plus rural areas, will have the opportunity to vote on the tax. If all voting entities approved, rural areas would receive $290,000 in added revenues. While Armstrong is currently receiving $170,000 and Ringsted $76,000, those amounts would go to the levels they would have been had Estherville also approved the tax in 1997 as well, or $68,700 for Armstrong and $30,762 for Ringsted. The difference has essentially been a windfall over the past 11 years since Estherville did not approve the tax. Tax apportionment is determined by Iowa Code and administered by the Iowa Department of Revenue and is based on assessments and population. Other communities in Emmet County benefitting from the new tax if approved would be Dolliver $5,000, Gruver $7,000, and Wallingford $14,000.

Bumgarner said the City of Estherville has indicated it would like to use the added money for public safety, recreation, and senior citizens’ needs. He said the tax will affect out-of-towners as well who buy city goods and services.

“It’s actually a fair form of tax,” Bumgarner said. “Those who spend more pay more. It allows us some revenues for community projects.”

Bumgarner said Excel! Estherville hoped the county would consider using 60 percent of the new money for county betterment projects and the remaining 40 percent for government. “We are hoping we could get your support,” he said.

Supervisor Randy Beaver offered concerns if Estherville should approve the tax and other entities do not.

Estherville Mayor Lyle Hevern, also speaking for Excel! Estherville, said the tax could also be brought up again through a petition of 5 percent of the voters in the last general election.

He suggested that money earmarked for county betterment could go into a revolving loan fund and groups could apply for funding. He said that would still allow the board of supervisors to control funding.

Estherville City Administrator Steve Woodley said that in the 11 years since Estherville voted down the local option sales tax that college students would have helped pay for community resources.

Beaver said he wanted to attend local city council meetings so other communities had the necessary information to make a decision.

“I want them to know they’re included in it,” Beaver said.

In other business coming before the supervisors Tuesday, the board approved a bid of $83,100 from Christensen Construction for the law enforcement center roof.

Tom Egeland, Courthouse facilities supervisor, said an air exchange system needed to be placed on the communication center at an estimated cost of $5,250. That cost would be shared with the City of Estherville.

County Engineer Roger Patocka gave the road report and said requests for proposals had been sent out for fuel bids for the next fiscal year.

Patocka noted that the county has bought a low-boy trailer at auction for $29,500. The trailer new would have cost $60,000. The trailer will be used to help haul equipment for secondary roads.

The board voted to support a veto of the collective bargaining bill, a recommendation from the Iowa State Association of Counties.