On Monday night the City Council will be asked to vote on a plan that represents a step toward major tax increases in the future. The plan involves more tax-free land for the SMSC.
The proposal by City Manager Boyles and Mayor Hedberg to support more tax-free land for the SMSC is a big deal. It’s also a bad deal that only gets worse with time. It’s time for straight talk instead of double talk. Consider these eye-opening facts.
City Staff estimated a future loss of $1.25 million per year in local tax revenue on the 200 acres the SMSC wants in tax-free trust, land the SMSC stated would be used for commercial and residential development. That’s the tip of the iceberg. No one is mentioning the grossly larger potential tax loss on another 2000 acres that we now know the SMSC has purchased. The SMSC makes no secret of the fact that they intend to put this acreage (all in and around Prior Lake) into tax-free trust also. If 200 developed acres can generate $1.25 million in local taxes, could the tax loss on 2000 acres be ten times as much, or $12.5 million? No body is talking, but the loss can be astronomical and forever.
The push for tax-free land is not about need, but about want. City Manager Boyles once estimated (we have the report) that the average income for a non-tribal Prior Lake family was only about five percent of the income for a SMSC Tribal couple. This suggests that those who pay taxes need a break a lot more than those who don’t. Make no mistake about it. The transfer of land to tax-free trust also includes the transfer of additional tax burden to taxpayers.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) recognized the difference between need and want when they rejected an earlier SMSC application for more tax-free trust land. In simple understandable language the BIA spelled out that Tribal members do not have to live on trust land to enjoy the full benefits of Tribal membership, and that they don’t need tax-free land considering the lucrative “family income” received by Tribal members from casino operations. If the BIA doesn’t believe the SMSC needs more tax-free land, what makes Boyles and Hedberg think they do?
So what is it that City Leaders don’t understand? Do they understand that taxpayers will have to make up the tax shortfall if/when the 2300 acres the Tribe owns that are not in trust, end up tax-free? That’s another three and a half square miles. Do they understand that their approval of a chunk of land going into trust now, is just another step toward approval of it all? Do they understand that the fiscal bonanza they are offering the SMSC, will turn into a fiscal nightmare for future city and county taxpayers?
Citizens for Accountable Government (CAG) does not support the Boyles/Hedberg proposal. It is our hope that the Council majority will vote no support for the SMSC Trust application, and will require that a vigorous letter of opposition be sent to the BIA. The Council needs to decide who they serve, the taxpayers of Prior Lake or the leaders of a wealthy “sovereign nation”. It shouldn’t be that difficult to decide.
IF YOU AGREE, WE VIGOROUSLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU IMMEDIATELY SEND A BRIEF EMAIL TO THE MAYOR AND ALL COUNCIL MEMBERS, URGING THEM TO VOTE NO TO ANY SUPPORT FOR MORE TAX-FREE TRUST LAND. WE ALSO ENCOURAGE ANY OF YOU WHO CAN MAKE IT TO ATTEND THE MONDAY NIGHT COUNCIL MEETING. All levels of government make better decisions when they know their constituents are watching.
City of Prior Lake Mayor and City Council contact information
Steering Committee, Citizens for Accountable Government (CAG)
Wes Mader, Chair