The Hancock County Board of Supervisors on Aug. 31 focused on trying to keep the amount for the county’s proposed new secondary roads maintenance building in Britt low for a Nov. 2 voter referendum. Final action on the referendum amount was tabled until a special meeting scheduled for Sept. 3.
Due to its general corporate purpose and size, a vote of taxpayers will be required for the new county maintenance facility, according to Maggie Burger of Speer Financial of Waterloo. The company is a financial manager contracted with the county for the funding of a number of large upcoming projects including courthouse foundation work, a vestibule addition, drainage, and parking lot updates; a new communications tower, and a new heating and cooling system in the law enforcement center.
After Burger noted a cost of $5.2 million for the new building in Britt, she added this would not include additional associated financial costs that could push the cost over $5.3 million. With the referendum, the county must set a “must-not-exceed amount” for voters to ponder. County Attorney Blake Norman noted that if the price is set too low and costs end up higher, county officials would be creating a ceiling that is based on the referendum.
“We’re really needing to get the numbers set on the county shed right now,” Burger said, calling it the “tip of the iceberg” for all the financial planning to be forthcoming on various large projects.
“Prices never seem to back off,” Chair Gary Rayhons said. However, some supervisors, and county engineer Jeremy Purvis, expressed concerns that if the amount is set too high, it increases the risk of not passing.
“I’m okay with $4.6 million,” Rayhons said after further discussion. “I would like to see the 12 and 15-year numbers.”
Burger agreed to run 10, 12, and 15-year numbers for debt service related to the project and return for the 9 a.m. Sept. 3 special meeting of the board. Action on a resolution formalizing any referendum amount may be taken at that meeting.
Burger suggested that the county can infuse cash into the new maintenance shed project up front or save cash to help offset property taxes on it over time. She said the county might get “more bang for its buck” by utilizing property tax implementation of up to more than $8 million or $9 million for inclusion of other projects such as the law enforcement center HVAC and communications tower. In such a scenario, she said it could possibly result in an 86-cent or 61-cent tax levy over 10 or 15 years.
“Fifteen years could be palatable,” Rayhons said. Burger noted that interest rates are likely to spike in the future and that she recommends against 20-year debt service. County officials are looking at using general obligation bonds for large projects funding.
To put any potential tax levy in perspective, Burger said that 61 cents on a debt service levy would result in a $34 per year property tax on a $100,000 house and $68 per year on a $200,000 house.
The new secondary roads maintenance shed in Britt is the first priority because the other projects can go through public hearing processes. The county has authority to build and finance a communications tower, Burger said.
County engineer Purvis said previously that the shed construction could begin as early as spring 2022, dependent on funding. The facility on the northeast edge of Britt will replace the existing late-1930s Britt maintenance shed location.
Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at email@example.com.