Mitchell, SD pays a third of what we did for their Indoor Aquatic Center

Okay, for disclosure reasons their pool is a little bit smaller (not by much) and they were wise enough to attach it to another public facility (what a concept), a rec center;

MSH said construction costs are below the project’s total budget and construction is on schedule for a mid-June opening.

Under budget!? The only time we have heard that in Sioux Falls is when the mayor decided to put tin foil on the Denty. Not only are they paying a third what we are for the building, the operating costs are estimated at $400K a year (and the citizens freaked when that estimate jumped from $225K). Our operating costs are at $1.4 million a year with a $400K deficit.

So now we have Watertown and Mitchell for examples. Why are we paying double to 3x more for our public facilities in Sioux Falls than in these other smaller South Dakota cities and getting less? Somebody is getting rich from building public facilities in Sioux Falls, and it isn’t the taxpayer.

Why do property tax rates continue to rise in Sioux Falls?

After watching the Sioux Falls school board meeting last night about the possible Sanford donation of land for another school, it got me thinking about property tax rate increases.

Since I have purchased my home about 15 years ago my property taxes have over doubled. In that time I had one small equity loan and a re-finance. Most of the increases have come from rate increases. While I can understand a rate increase with a community that has slow building and housing growth, that hasn’t happened in Sioux Falls. In fact when you think about record building permits over the last five years and the hot seller’s market in housing you would think that rate increases would not be needed due to this massive growth.

There are several ways increases happen. The city can raise property tax rates each year, and they have every year for probably the past 20 years or longer. Minnehaha county also has had several opt-outs along with the school district and now with a new high school looming in 2019, get prepared for another BIG increase in our property taxes.

It also doesn’t help that the county has to fund the drastic increase in criminal justice services through our property taxes. The city really should be helping to pay for incarceration with the 2nd penny and the alcohol tax really should be doubled to help alleviate those costs. It would also help if our PD was properly staffed, trained and paid to help combat crime through prevention instead of whack a mole.

That is why I am confused about the math. How can we continue to add housing and commercial property and have several press conferences about this growth yet have to raise rates consistently? So which is it? Is the massive growth adding to the tax rolls? Damn right it is. So are we being over taxed on our property? Probably, especially on private housing.

Part of the problem is all the cheerleading about building permits is kind of a false pep rally. Many of the big projects in our community are public or non-profit projects. And the ones that are not are getting TIFs or other tax abatements. In other words, the big wheels in town are seeing some big tax cuts while the rest of us are ponying up for infrastructure through higher taxes for projects like Flopdation Park.

The system is clearly broken and the city, school district, county and state need to take a different approach to funding government instead of constantly increasing our property taxes. I had a few solutions above, but I also think we should suspend or end the TIF program. It hasn’t proven that it pays for itself through workforce development or providing affordable housing. TIFs are corporate welfare in Sioux Falls and little else. I would encourage the next mayor and council to seriously look at ending this program and initiating different programs for developers like deregulation to save them money.

Let’s face it, if you are working class in this city you are getting the shaft when it comes to taxes (and don’t think apartment dwellers are immune, the high rental rates are proof property tax rates are high). Sales taxes are also very regressive. Taxing food at a higher rate to supplement teacher was and is a bad idea.

It’s time to stop the incremental property tax rate increases and use common sense when funding essential government services.

UPDATE: DaCola Rumor Mill

Okay, so I get odds and ends quite often with what is happening at City Hall. Here are a few things I have heard over the past week that is interesting.

UPDATE: Councilor Neitzert was kind enough to give us updates on these items. Thanks Greg!

Affordable Housing. I guess a major affordable housing project that was supposed to provide housing to middle income professionals (condo like apartments for sale) got botched and now will have to be sold as regular housing because the fire walls were built wrong and put the project in a different classification. This is unfortunate because the project got around $300K from affordable housing and now it is out of that classification. I hope to hear more details about what exactly happened.

UPDATE: Affordable Housing Solution AHS was building the “Field of Dreams” project at 14th and Sycamore (across from Casey’s) and was getting pretty far into it when they went in I think to replat and found out that the firewalls were not 2 hour walls so they couldn’t replat and sell off as individual units.  It was a major goof, and it likely had something to do with the transition from old to new people there and also this being one of their first forays into this type of project.  There are multiple players involved, someone goofed, exactly who is not entirely clear, but that’s somewhat of a internal battle.

The bank giving them the financing froze the money for a while and made them get quotes on what it would cost to make them 2 hour walls and still be sellable as the intended single units.  That pricing came in and was way too high.  They then all had to make the best out of a bad situation and looked at either apartments or doing condos.  The lesser of the evils is condos but even that has challenges.  Condos are harder to get financing for as a home buyer and now they will need to have an association to maintain.  They have an agreement with a local bank to basically hold the mortgages on the initial ones until they get at least 50% owner occupied and then they can start selling the mortgages onto the open market (they will be conforming mortgages then).  The city essentially gave them time to bring them a workable solution, and as long as their solution is something that we still get paid back, we will approve it, they may have got to that point already.  We were going to and will be a silent second mortgage that gets paid back when the owner sells the home, i.e. instead of paying 170k they pay 150k, we pay 20k and the silent mortgage is on the property and we’d be paid back on their later resale.  There is also state home loan down payment assistance and a forgivable phased out down payment as I recall too.  Its just going to be owning a condo instead of your own place, so you will own basically the space in the entire building instead of your own unit platted into its own property.  Not optimal but they are trying to make it work.

Golf Contract. Rumor has it that Landscapes Unlimited did purchase equipment from Dakota Golf Management for the city’s original offer of $475K. Unfortunately, even if that is true, the city will have to reimburse LU for the purchase.

UPDATE: Landscape bought the equipment for 475k.  Recall that we transfer what was left in the DGM operating account into the Landscape operating account, and Landscape writes checks out of that.  It is an account in their name but it is OUR money kept in trust.  So there is no reimbursement needed.  Landscape bought the equipment out of the account in their name, but again its our money.  So ‘we’ bought the equipment, although again it is owned by them ‘in trust’ until the contract is over at which point they hand it to us.  I didn’t like this odd model which was my objection to the contract, but that is what it is.

Heritage Park firehouse. There has been speculation if the firehouse that is scheduled to be sold to Stone Group Architects was sitting on parks land or regular city property. My guess is that it is probably on city property. Why is this important? Because if it sits on parks land it must go to a public vote before any parks land property can be sold.

UPDATE: They researched and the firehouse is on city property but it has never been park property so no state law issues.  Stone group is buying the land and building and will hold clear title to that parcel.

I would hope in the contract for selling it we will have a stipulation about what it can be used for and reversionary clauses.  I would think we would.

Pavilion adds a Development Officer after an absence

Image: Siouxfalls.business

I’m glad to see the Pavilion is finally getting a development person back on staff;

Kerri DeGraff will join the Washington Pavilion as the chief development officer Feb. 12. DeGraff most recently served as the development director for Feeding South Dakota for six years. Before that, she worked for five years with the Sioux Empire United Way as the community impact director.

I think Kerri has done a good job at FSD, I just find it interesting she is taking her talents to a different kind of non-profit model. Of course, development officers are in charge of raising private donations and other gifts. Obviously she is probably going to tap into her current list of contacts for these donations and you wonder what kind of toes may not like being stepped on. Raising money for the arts and raising money to feed the less fortunate are two different beasts. I wish her luck!

Is it time for another STEHLY REPORT?

Here is the last issue and my article below: Stehly-NL

Some think the charter works just fine as is, some would like to tear it to shreds completely. I personally think it needs some tweaks that would help it work better. We don’t need to throw the baby out with the bath water. So what would those charter amendments look like?

• Remove the mayor as a city councilor. He would no longer have VETO power or break ties. A five vote majority would be a pass unless reconsidered, and a tie would mean failure. It would require six votes to pass taxation and fee increases.

• The mayor would no longer chair meetings. He would be requested like director heads to be in attendance in the audience to answer questions only.

• The mayor would be responsible only as the employee manager of the city.

• The council would write the budget starting from ground zero each year with the mayor only having equal input.

• The council would be responsible for all legislation, only taking advice from department heads and the mayor. The mayor could no longer introduce legislation without consent of the council.

• All major planning, rezone proposals, fee increases would have to go through FULL council first before being introduced to the Planning Commission or other departments pertinent.

• The finance department, like the audit department would be under the control of the council and NOT the mayor.

• The city council would have their own attorney and legal department to research legislation. Simple changes like this to the charter would guarantee more equal participation from the council while regulating the mayor’s REAL duties as a city manager instead of an all powerful official.

Legislative Update from Advocates

Advocates, Good news from Senate floor today.

SB56 The Senate Appropriations committee listened to our request last week to adjust the income eligibility limits for the tax refund program for the elderly and people with disabilities.  Sen. Wik brought an amendment from that committee’s discussion to the Senate floor today, and it passed unanimously.  You can thank all Senators (except the two absent ones, Cammack and Partridge) for their support of SB56 and its helpful amendment. And I thank all of you who made contacts to the committee on this. It paid off. Now we hope the House agrees.

• Report. These 3 bills passed committee today and now head to Senate floor soon, so contact any or all Senators on these:

1. Sorry to say, SJR1  proposes a 55% vote to pass amendments to the state constitution.

Voters would have to approve that change, but this is an attempt to reduce our citizen rights to initiatives. Ask Senators to vote NO.

2. SB77  asks for mid-year reports for ballot committees, so we can see where their money is coming from sooner and don’t have to wait til after the election to find out. This one is helpful. Support.

3. SB79 lets Independents sign candidate petitions. That’s a step forward for participation in democracy. (Maybe someday they’ll even get to vote in primaries.).  Support.

• New for Senate State Affairs committee 

You can comment on any of the above 3 bills they voted on today. (like thanking them for support for 77 and 79). Now these bills are headed there on Wed. (1/24) at 10AM,(9 Mt time).  Senate State Affairs has these senators:

Bolin,  Curd,  Ewing,  Heinert,  Langer, Maher,  Netherton,  Novstrup,  Sutton.

SB2 is helpful for the housing opportunity fund

HB1006 is the one that needs its Section 2 taken out, according to Dakota Rural Action. Its problem is that it could possibly shorten the time for initiatives rather than lengthening it.

Unions in Sioux Falls continue to get suckered by this guy

This picture appeared on FB with this tagline;

Achut Deng, UFCW Member, rallies the crowd of 2500 people in support of The Labor Movement. And Union Workers march together at the Sioux Falls Women’s March.

The last thing ANY union member in Sioux Falls wants is to be pictured with this man rallying for unions. Not only did he take advantage of the unions by posing as a fake Democrat to get elected to his first term, he has fought hard as mayor to work against the unions when it comes to benefits, pension and raises.

The next time Mike climbs on stage with a union member, they need to politely ask him to leave.

Will Stehly run for mayor in 2018?

My quick answer? NO. As someone who talks to her often about city legislative policies and worked on her campaign to get her elected to the city council, I think Theresa is perfectly happy being a part-time legislator for the city, a music teacher, an organic gardener and active in her church.

There has been tons of speculation if she will run. I have often joked with people that if she announced today and the election was tomorrow, she would be elected. Of course things don’t work that way.

One of the reasons many people have speculated is because Stehly has told mayoral candidates she will NOT endorse anyone. This is actually smart since she may have to work with one of the candidates. She has also sent out a postcard and a newsletter in the past couple of months giving updates to the city. She has done this at her own expense and not from donations or a campaign fund. There is also only one woman running right now for mayor. I’m not saying Theresa’s philosophies are that much different than Jolene’s, but I will say Theresa has more experience with city government then Jolene does, and if Theresa announced it would certainly put a damper on Jolene’s campaign. But what is the biggest factor that would be advantageous to Stehly if she ran for mayor? She is the demographic that votes in Sioux Falls municipal elections; moderate to conservative, populist, working class, 55 and older individuals.

But the other thing I have learned about Stehly is she can have a change of heart, in a heartbeat. If Stehly does run for Mayor she has until February 23rd to turn in her petitions. Until than, I don’t think the current pool has much to worry about. Just remember, vote for anybody but Jim and Paul.

Is District 10 Senator Jenna (Haggar) Netherton living in SD?

Since Jenna got married there has been much speculation if she still lives in SD anymore. Curiously her husband’s last job was listed in Wichita, KS that he left in December of 2016. Rumor around the capital is that she has been living with her husband in Texas. This of course would disqualify her to be a State Senator in South Dakota. Also interesting is that her address listed on her legislative page is a PO Box. I know that Jenna is pretty petite, but it would be pretty hard to live in a PO Box. So is claiming South Dakota residency while living in Texas? Many are wondering. Will leadership in Pierre have her give proof of residency?

The irony is that I haven’t seen Jenna for well over a year. Not that we run in the same circles, but I used to run into Jenna in Downtown Sioux Falls at least a couple times a month.

Like her father who is supposed to be banned for lobbying for a year in Pierre yet was there lobbying, it seems Jenna may have no disregard for the rules.

Weiland to Run for Sioux Falls City Council against Erickson instead of mayor

Nick Weiland will be holding a press conference at the downtown library today at 2pm to make an announcement about his decision to run for At-Large against Councilor Christine Erickson.