NTF issue paper: papiomrnrd24.doc.  2-10.

NEBRASKA TAXPAYERS FOR FREEDOM TESTIMONY BEFORE PAPIO-MISSOURI RIVER NATURAL RESOURCES BOARD: FEB. 11, 2010.

            Good evening.  My name is Doug Kagan, and I represent NE Taxpayers for Freedom.  I am speaking again this evening to urge the board to NOT move ahead with authorizing the issuance of the storm water management bonds.  We realize that the NRD has worked diligently to produce a number of possible options to cope with current and future storm water management.  Some of these proposed options, such as wetland development, we support.  Another, dam construction, we do not support.  Your proposal to issue up to $13.3 million in bonds does not include a specific, concrete plan of action that you intend to pursue up and down the NRD flood plain or individual costs for each project.  We do not see a definitive time line.  Therefore, you are asking taxpayers to write you a large check, through a special property tax levy, that leaves blank the “Pay to the Order of” line.  I never write a check that leaves this space blank, and no one else I know writes checks like that.  You are asking NRD taxpayers to write a check that leaves you free to use this money as you wish, without first telling taxpayers the precise purpose of the check. 

            Furthermore, we advise this board to vote not on the entire watershed project but only one part at a time, as the entire watershed project will not be worked on simultaneously.  In this way, taxpayers who live along particular sections of the affected watershed area will have more time to formulate their input.

            We also would oppose using bond monies for additional studies and reports advocating a need for dams, because such use would only further contradict the feelings of a majority of taxpayers. 

            A February 3 memorandum from Gen. Manager Winkler states that Douglas and Washington Counties are not obligated to approve or disapprove any projects for this bond issue, as these projects do not reside in either of the county’s exclusive zoning jurisdiction.  This statement apparently contradicts text in LB 160, passed by the Legislature in 2009. 

            We propose that you finalize a specific proposal for storm water management along the entire flood plain and widely open the discussion of this proposal to public input, as the City of Omaha has accomplished with its sewer separation community meetings.  As you know, several of your present proposals have met with stiff opposition from taxpayer and other groups and individuals.  Let us have a healthy public debate. Allow taxpaying citizens more opportunity to lobby you to alter your proposal.  Then, perhaps you will reconsider issuing these bonds or the amount thereof. 

Doug Kagan, chairman NE Taxpayers for Freedom
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TAX FACTS ABOUT THE BOND ISSUE:

This bond issue will mean a tax increase for NRD property taxpayers.  Bond debt requires paying off both principal and interest.  If the bonds float at a 4.9% interest rate, the $13.3 million bond issue will cost taxpayers over $7.6 million in interest.  Total property tax cost to retire the bonds will reach $20.9 million.  Factoring in these costs with the NRD watershed plan of 6 new dams by 2013, the total price tag will reach $134 million and then, with interest payments, over $210.4 million.  If the NRD board implements its entire plan for 29 dams in Douglas and Sarpy Counties, spending $375.7 million, taxpayer cost with interest will total over $589.8 million!  Debt retiring takes many years, so this monstrous proposal will burden future generations of property owners and leave future NRD boards the task of assessing higher taxes.  The NRD board flagrantly ignored its own FY 2010 budget, which stated potential bond requirement of $9.7 million, not $13.3 million, duplicitously passing a resolution on Feb. 11 that spent $3.6 million, 37%, over the budgeted amount.  Furthermore, the board resolution will float bonds in a manner not relayed to state senators during testimony on LB 160.  Senators agreed to grant bonding authority to provide flood protection within the boundaries of the watershed.  However, only 35% of the bonds will tackle flood control.  No bond funds committed to low-impact development measures like wetlands and small retention ponds.  This bonding authority the NRD board is using only to transfer wealth from property owners to large developers who will earn gigantic profits by developing expensive commercial and residential property around dammed lakes.   Further aggravating taxpayers, the board, we believe, intentionally designed the 6 dam sites to straddle two counties.  LB 160 allowed county boards to block bond projects within their exclusive county jurisdictions.  Therefore, Douglas and Washington County boards, which oppose these dams, now cannot legally disapprove these projects funded by this bond issue.  The board refuses to state specifically what, if any, dam projects will intrude over the Washington County line from the north or south.  We believe that the board intentionally circumvented the intent and spirit of LB 160. The board has proved itself devious and dishonest with both state senators and taxpayers.  Finally, these Build America Bonds became authorized by the horrendous porkulus bill authored by the Obama Administration.  To add insult to injury, the NRD board instructed its lobbyist to oppose LB 1011, which would prohibit an NRD from using eminent domain to develop or manage a recreational trail or corridor unless associated with a flood control dam.  This bill intends to stop natural resource districts from confiscating large tracts of land for only recreational purposes. 

THE VOTE:

Voting  YES, to issue $13.3 million in bonds for dams that will increase property taxes for property owners:

Larry Bradley, Fred Conley, John Conley, Tim Fowler, David Klug, Rick Kolowski, John Schwope, Rich Tesar, and Jim Thompson.

Voting NO, in favor of property taxpayers:

Dorothy Lanphier and Scott Japp.

 

Board members Fred Conley, John Conley, Jim Thompson, Tim Fowler, and David Klug are all up for re-election in 2010.  Find candidates to replace them!  Be sure to vote for their opponents!

 

Research, documentation, and analysis for this issue paper done by Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, with express prior permission granted for its use by Citizens for Local Control, Cherry County Taxpayers, Dawes County Taxpayers, and other groups in the Tax Freedom Network.  2-10.  C