Guest Post: Mike Zitterich, Sioux Falls City Council and Taxes

This was an email Mike sent to City Council and gave me permission to post;

Good Morning,

After attending the 3/3/2020 City Council Session the other night listening to many interesting debates, I want to discuss a few issues that I feel are important here.

The definition of the word Surplus is where you have excess monies available at the end of a fiscal season after all expenses have been paid out for the year.

My definition of a surplus is one of which the people spent a lot of money for the year, and ‘we’ over paid our taxes. This is the proper way to think of a surplus, not to mention, build a case that this would prove that the citizens are overly taxed, and that we could very easily afford to cut the tax rates.

Lets remember here shall we, “I” like many people, only consented to give up a portion of our sovereign property rights to the “City” in order to pool our assets as one to provide us the basic necessary services to each other. Therefore we agreed to fund Basic Government @ 1% Sales Tax in order to pay for…

– Roads/Streets, and the basic maintenance and repairs needed to maintain them thru out the year.

– Public Parks, where we the people have donated, or ceded some of our land to the city in order to provide each other cheap, fun, family activities thru out the township.

– Police Department, we agreed to fund a local police force in order to protect our properties, keeping us safe from bad men and women whom may attempt to harm us.

– Local Fire Department, in order to provide us Fire, Rescue, and Emergency Safety in order keep us safe thus protecting each other and our properties.

– Public Utilities (water, sewer, lights, electricity) in order to pool our infrastructure to help provide the basic most cheapest service possible as a community.

– Public Parking, helping to provide enough sufficient space thru out the town giving us cheap, well maintained parking spaces for FREE or at Discounted User Rates to go about our daily activities as a community of conducting business.

– Public Transportation in order to provide ourselves as a community the most cheapest service possible helping to provide us a way to commute to work, school, or to do daily activities as a community.

– Basic Government Administration in order to help manage, plan, and provide those basic services to the people.

That is all ‘we’ the people have consented to, and these costs should be as cheap and affordable as possible as to NOT over tax the people.

Now, we have placed in our ordinances the ability to raise in the short term of 2 years, the ability to borrow from the people money to invest in Land, Buildings, Infrastructure, New Roads, in order to expand the city, make our daily lives better, let alone improve upon our city. This is in fact the true purpose of our 2nd Penny Sales Tax. And this should be a temporary tax that should be used for 2 year periods, in order to NOT to place a burden on future generations. We simply give the City the ability to extend that tax up to 5 years. But as we ‘vote’ every 2 years to change our councils, the mayor, those Capital Plans change with those elections.

Thus – the 2nd Penny Tax in my opinion is a temporary tax, and should be allowed to expire when ‘we’ have raised the appropriate funds to pay for the land, new roads, new buildings, new infrastructure, etc.

The true measure of what it costs our city is the allocated expenses paid for by the 1st Penny Sales Tax. That is it.

This was the point I believe Pat Starr was attempting to make at the 3/3/2020 Council Session about the Property Tax issue. IF our Sales Tax is consistently creating huge surpluses year in and year out, and our population keeps growing every year by 3,500 people – that is an automatic $2,500,000 in new sales tax revenue every year, couple that with the Mayor restricting funds, re-financing the Bonds, the interest income that comes in from stocks, bonds, and capital, “WE” should be able to stop pulling from the Property Tax that the statutes allow us to take each year. Why do we keep keep taking more from Property Taxes, when we really do not need them.

This current ‘council’ and city administration currently believe that those property tax dollars are ours for the taking, no they are not. And there is NO mandate that we must use them. The statutes simply say, if we do not take them this year, we lose them. That is fine in my book. If we truly do NOT need them to balance our city budget, why not allow the STATE LEGISLATORS re-apportion those funds back to the people directly back to the School Districts, our Seniors, our Homeless population, our Low Income Citizens, our Children’s Lunch Programs, etc. This was the point Pat Starr was making. And I agree with him on that subject manner.

Now – I was hoping that Pat Starr and Greg Neitzert would have extended that little tax debate longer Tuesday night. They are two of the most respected city councilors, Greg and his analytic skills, and Pat with his common sense and due process. This is the DEBATE ‘we’ need to have as a community, and this is the discussion that we must force. I dont want anyone to argue, or fight. No. That is not the point, but those two are probally the best at leading this debate. Not to mention, its my most favorite topic mind you. I call for a respectful discussion in order to address this growing concern of mine –> To Much Revenue leads to an out of Control Government, and that leads to higher tax rates, more expenses, more ‘wants’.

We can very effectively cut our sales tax rates, and take less and less from property tax dollars, thus rewarding the people for their good work of Saving, Investing in our City, to spending lots of money, while helping to promote the city attracting foreigners, tourists, visitors to attend our public events, concerts, and attractions. That helps produce even more sales tax revenue.

Then there is the other Misc-Excise taxes, Imposts, and Duties that fund the Enterprise Funds, Programs, and Services offered by the city that raise their own revenues totally separate from sales and property taxes. They are self sufficient and create huge profits, which then provide us the capital needed to sustain them, invest in them, manage them. Again –> allows us to cut the Direct Taxes we call sales tax and property tax, which hurt the most vulnerable in our community.

Our effective sales tax rate is 1% – it then becomes a matter of how much ‘we’ need to borrow in the short term from the people for new roads, purchase land, new infrastructure, build new buildings, etc. Thus we create cost estimates to put forth a 2 year plan raise tax dollars from the people. That is what the Second Penny is for. And we allow the government to ‘tax’ us for up to 5 years. After we raise the necessary funds, this ‘tax’ should be allowed to expire. Until the next time ‘we’ need to raise funds in the short term.

Folks, this CITY can survive on $70,000,000 in Basic Sales Tax Funds; it can survive on the $200,000,000 it raises in Misc-Excises, Imposts, and Duties we collect to fund the activities and services of the city. We do not need to keep borrowing from bond holders, if we simply DO NOT over tax the people. We should be allowing the “citizens” to pay less in sales tax, which then allows them to invest in their own properties, spend a little extra cash, and perhaps save their money for tomorrow. “They” the citizens then become more vested in our community. Our revenue will rise in due time.

I will continue to hammer at this, lobby to lower our sales tax rate in the spirit of trying to save the citizens money. Thus rewarding them for a job well done.

In the end – we must stop over taxing people, we do NOT need anything so bad that it cannot wait 5 years until we can raise the necessary funds thru the 2nd penny. We need to be responsible, prudent, and manage our tax dollars better. We can and will lower these rates soon enough. It is just a matter of time.

I strongly encourage some thought on an ordinance that would mandate that the 2nd Penny expire every five (5) years; for no less than a term of two (2) years; placing the expiration on the same two year election cycle. This means that during a councilor’s 8 years (should anyone serve 2 terms); they would have to deal with less revenue for 2 of those 8 years in office. Not only does this help the citizens, I believe it encourages public debate, more discussion on goals, agenda, future wants and needs, thus slowing down the process of pushing items thru from 1st and 2nd Hearings. There have been a few items discussed where I felt we could have followed thru and deferred them a couple weeks. Public discussion is what we need to strive for. I do not believe this hurts the city one bit, the goal is to enforce, mandate, and encourage more public discussion on our future needs. 

Our current tax revenue consists of:

  • $126-130,000,000 million worth of Sales/Use Tax
  • $65,000,000 worth of Property Tax dollars (optional)
  • $200,000,000 estimated/projected Misc-Excises, Imposts, and Duties
  • $100,000,000 in Bonds, Federal and State Loans, Grants, Budget Restraints, Bond Refinancing

    Saving the Citizens $60-70,000,000 per year for a term of 2 years should NOT harm the City at anytime. This is a City that has a net position of nearly $2,000,000,000 billion dollars after all expenses, liabilities, debts, and future obligations are paid in full. That equates to writing each ‘resident’ a check in the amount of $10,000 dollars if we were to shutdown the city. That is a lot of money. Government should not create surpluses – that means the people are overly taxed. 

Please, lets encourage this respectful discussion, lets fix our spending problem, our debt problem, lets be good stewards of the community. We owe it to our ancestors, and to our future generations.

*DaCola Note; While I disagree with Mike on several city issues, I think he nailed it in this post. It is getting more and more expensive to live in Sioux Falls, and the main reason is we are extremely overtaxed. I agree that the 2nd Penny should be reviewed every 5 years and adjusted. I also think property taxes should decrease instead of increasing each year.



10 comments ↓

#1 D@ily Spin on 03.07.20 at 9:48 am

Fundamentally, a half billion budget for a population of 170k is unjustified. What’s lacking is general accounting justification. It’s to easy to spend other people’s money on vacant unfinished 4-story parking ramps.

#2 Steve on 03.07.20 at 11:13 am

Councilor Starr said it right when he said the citizens are overtaxed. What is to blame for the yearly tax increase? Is it to provide money for the neverending loans and bonds or is it that this Mayor just wants a well padded bank balance? Every Councilor has a different opinion on the subject. It’s time to take a year off from the tax increase and let the citizens spend the money on something they need.

#3 “Name in quotes for no reason” on 03.07.20 at 12:23 pm

One thing he gets completely wrong: taxes do not pay for water and sewer. Your wait and sewer bill does. Don’t want to pay for water? Don’t use any.

#4 "Very Stable Genius" on 03.07.20 at 6:38 pm

“Niqfnr,” formerly known as “Unstable Genius,” as opposed to a stable one, and an ally of the Alex! camp, wants us all to thirst.

#5 Hairy Reasoner on 03.07.20 at 9:02 pm

In most other countries outside the US libel laws allow politicians to sue if you criticize them. Hence it is not uncommon for code words to develop. For example one might say “my most esteemed colleague” which is really code for “that worthless idiot”. I particularly appreciate the phrase “analytical mind” when applied to politicians. I think several of the city councilors posses this attribute. They have analyzed the situation, recognized that to stay in the gravy and keep their job all they have to do is vote how they are told. It only took Neitzert a few weeks after his election to give up his platform and start chasing, what he thinks are the keys to power, like a greyhound after a surrogate rabbit. That is what I call a politician with an “analytical mind”.

#6 Genius in time is needed on 03.08.20 at 8:54 am

What Mike gets right is the abuse of the bonding process. The last mayor created a boom town mentality to encourage more people to be here so there would be more justification for borrowing more money for things we did not need. There is no justification for the city of Sioux Falls to go into competition with local businesses just because the city can build it. Why do we allow these out of control business-minded people put their friends out of business? The Bonding companies have convinced the civic leaders borrowing to the max legal per resident limit is OK. It is not, the abuse of the borrowing limit is causing everything to cost more and stopping businesses from expanding here.

#7 Mike Lee Zitterich on 03.08.20 at 2:54 pm

I thank you for sharing my thoughts on this matter. I do enjoy dialogue and sharing ideas and thoughts in a respectful manner to help make this city a good place to live.

In response to the “Enterprise Fund” and how they are funded, whether its the Water and Sewer Funds, Public Parking, Land Fill, Lights, etc – they are all “funded” by Taxes.

They are funded by “DUTIES” which is a tax as defined in the U.S Constitution under Article 1. Their main purpose is to fund specific government services in order to provide those services. They are often times defined as “USER FEES”, but they are a tax.

If any of you were to at some point in time research and look over the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (C.A.F.R) you will find on page 37 thru 38 if my memory serves me correctly – you will see the 6 Enterprise Funds broken down separately. Not one of them get their funding from Sales Tax or the Property Tax. Their primary source of revenue comes from “DUTIES” paid by the citizens as they “Use” the services.

Excise Taxes are paid by those individuals/companies whom actively participate in a specific activity; while DUTIES are paid by those individuals/companies whom actively “USE” the services provided in order to generate sufficient revenue need to pay for the services, let alone invest back into the services; while IMPOST FEES are transaction fees, applicant fees, permit and license fees, tariffs used where people do business with one another within the ‘jurisdiction’ of said government territory. Imposts genuinely provide government the revenue needed to provide code enforcement, zoning and building enforcement, in order to enforce our laws, ordinances, and regulations.

If you were to study the the C.A.F.R and look over the Enterprise Funds – you will find that each one of them own “ASSETS” such as Land, Buildings, Equipment, Machinery, Vehicles, Infrastructure, Pre-Paid Construction Costs. Then you will find the liabilities, expenses, debts, and future employee obligations of each fund. They are ALL PAID FOR and not one of them receive any Sales or Property Tax Dollars. ALL are funded via DUTIES (user fees).

Water and Water Reclamation are highly rich in “Assets” and have Net Position of $464,000,000 million in NET ASSETS (Position).

This is what Greg Neitzert speaks about when he refers to the self funding nature of the funds themselves, their profits created. Those profits will pay for all future investments in to the fund.

As for the Parking Enterprise – the RAMP was 100% bonded out in the short term cause some in the community believed we needed it now, they wanted to partner with a private firm to build the ramp, along side private development which they deemed will benefit both. But in reality – if you look over the ‘fund’ itself, you will the fund itself was quite sustainable and could have paid for a smaller, more affordable Parking Ramp just as Sioux City did this past year costing them only $10,000,000 million.

We got to remember, all these “Assets” owned by the city is what gives it such appeal to those whom purchase Bonds, and whom are so willingly to loan us money, those “Assets” are then used as collateral damage thus backing the bonds themselves. I truly believe the goal here was to build a huge parking garage, while selling off the smaller “surface lots” in the near future, thus putting the money back into the Parking Fund itself, which then helps pay off the bonds.

Think about it – if we sell off those surface lots, sell them to private developers to then go and invest their own dollars in private buildings, infrastructure, affordable housing, we gain much more new Tax revenue in the future.

The CITY has NO revenue problem, the problem is we allow them to spend the revenue on wants and needs in order to increase the Asset Value of the City. Not necessarily a bad thing, but when those ‘taxes’ take from the most vulnerable, it places those people further on Government Tax Subsidies, Credits, and Benefits, which ultimately expand Government.

Most importantly, we need to inform people of how many taxes we pay over a 12 month season.

Mike Zitterich
Sioux Falls.

#8 won't vote for him again on 03.09.20 at 2:51 pm

Hairy reasoner is correct about analyical skills…especially those of neitzert. neitzert decides which way he’s going to vote THEN researches as much as he can find to back up his preconceived decision so he has plenty of wisdom to spew before he casts said vote. if i was beaduion running against him i would use these crystal clear facts…greg has voted for every tax and fee increase put before him except the for the ill conceived midco tax increase proposed by our esteemed ex-innovation director. greg has also voted for every tax break tif put in front of him during his term. i’ve seen nothing to indciate tifs have lowered any tax burden or resulted in any windfalls to our local economy. any vote for neitzert is a vote for higher taxes, in my view.

#9 Mike Zitterich on 03.10.20 at 5:06 pm

The taxes your referring to are user fee based and do NOT hurt the general public. He has in fact voted against increasing or using sales tax dollars to fund the enterprise funds and he has a clear understanding of city finances. I would not simply attack Greg on raising taxes alone. Thats an unfair assessment of his job.

Let’s keep on mind – he has in fact supported many quality of life amenities such as investing in the bike trails, investing in roads, and being prudent with and best managing the future growth of the enterprise funds. He does not support raising sales tax nor does he support property tax rates. You first need to understand how the city funds certain items and infrastructure. Hes open to cutting tax rates where we can cut them .

#10 check the record on 03.11.20 at 10:09 am

mr. z, don’t tell me what i do and don’t know. i have had this discussion with greg himself. he has voted for every tax and fee increase save one. he has voted for every tif. if he doesn’t support raising taxes and fees, he sure has a funny way of showing it, and your nt paying attention.