The Wright County Board of Commissioners’ approval of building bonds for a new Government Center building and Tactical Training Facility at its April 30 board meeting has generated comments among the public. Several claims have been made, and the county is providing facts to offer citizens accurate information.
CLAIM: The County does not own the Health & Human Services Building (the former Pamida building)
FACT: Wright County does own the building. When HHS moved there 20 years ago, it was designed to be a temporary move. The building is filled to capacity.
CLAIM: Wright County is selling the old Government Center to the City of Buffalo for $1.
FACT: There is no plan to sell either building for $1. There are developers interested in purchasing the Government Center and the former Pamida building.
CLAIM: To figure out how much your taxes will go up, get a calculator and take the county portion of tax times 1.17. This will tell you how much your taxes will go up if your property value stays the same. If your property value goes up you have that tax increase PLUS the tax from the 17% budget increase.
FACT: The budget did not increase 17%. The budget increase is 14.43% from 2018 to 2019, while the Levy increased 17.3%. The increase is not solely based on building projects, it reflects major technology upgrades, more state mandates and employee classification updates.
FACT: The specific formula for determining property tax is more complex, based on property classification and several other factors. www.co.wright.mn.us/DocumentCenter/View/5242/14-Reason-Why-property-Taxes-Vary-from-Year-to-Year?bidId=
FACT: Even with recent building projects, Wright County’s tax rate is less than some of our neighboring counties. Wright: 44%, Stearns: 51.1%, Sherburne: 48%, Benton: 61%.
CLAIM: $60 million on top of $90 million is hardly conservative. I am simply looking for statutory way to put the brakes on their spending for 1 year, so we can reason with them, or start raising up candidates to replace them, one by one.
FACT: Wright County is using less than one-third of its debt level allowed by statute. The county’s debt cap is $479M. With current and proposed projects, debt forecast is $155.2M.
FACT: Waiting to build rarely reduces the cost of the project. Inflation of finance rates, materials and labor costs will mean the same building will cost more to build in the future than it does today.
CLAIM: The Wright County Commissioners LEVIED for the New Govt Center and Tactical Center back in 2018, prior to approving the projects and bonding for the Govt Center and Tactical Center.
FACT: A $2.5M line item in the 2019 budget was earmarked for new construction bonding OR building improvements.
FACT: Constructing a new building in the next 10 years is something the commissioners agree on.
FACT: Building now or building later is where the board members split. One view was to act on favorable market conditions, with the rationale that this may be most optimal time in the next decade to build. An opposing view was to put funds into a building reserve account and delay building.
CLAIM: Does everyone realize the tax is already there and will be paid whether this goes to a vote or not?
FACT: Voting against the building bonds will not reduce taxes. If the building is not built, then funds will be used for delayed repairs.
CLAIM: The tactical center needs MUCH MORE discussion ($11M for a tactical center ???)
FACT: The tactical center budget is not $11M. It is $7.6M with $2.2M of that paid by the FBI, bringing the cost to $5.4M for the county. The project budget also contains contingency funds, which are not always used.
For even more information, review board agendas and minutes on the County website. www.co.wright.mn.us/AgendaCenter
Also, see replays of County Board meetings on the County’s Youtube channel. www.youtube.com/channel/UC8E7I0JyNFXMDrYvMUWtZmA
Lee Kelly is Wright County Administrator.