Letter: Importance of sharing accurate information on District

Thank you for the opportunity to provide some facts regarding the Shell Rock River Watershed District’s request to Freeborn County for their support and collaboration in pursuit of the Fountain Lake restoration and dredging project. Since last July, the district has been pursuing various options to provide financing alternatives so that we can proceed with our dredging bid this spring. Recently, we have been in productive conversations with Freeborn County to allow us to proceed with issuing our own bond in an approximate amount of $1.8 million.

I recently received word that there may be some incorrect information being discussed in the community regarding this process. As confirmed by Freeborn County, the maximum amount that we can levy under the proposed process is $166,000. There is some information being circulated that we are requesting a $2 million levy — that information is not correct.

According to the information received from Freeborn County Auditor Pat Martinson, the effect of this levy on a typical home of $100,000 would be an increase of approximately $6 per year; and a $200,000 home an increase of approximately $15. On a typical 80-acre parcel, the increase would be approximately $55. 

As emphasized recently in the Albert Lea Tribune, Shell Rock River Watershed District historical use of property taxes has been very minimal. Of the $40.21 million that will have been spent by the end of this year, $3.25 million has been generated by the administrative property tax levy; meaning only 8 percent of our total revenue has been generated by a property tax levy. To look at this from another perspective, the $3.25 million in property tax levy has been leveraged to obtain nearly $37 million in non-property tax funds. Our funding approach will have financed $37 million worth of water quality improvements in the county with no cost on your property tax statements. 

We are in the final stretch of preparing our bid for the dredging component of the Fountain Lake project and value the close working relationship that has developed with Freeborn County. It is important that accurate facts are relied upon in making these decisions. A full discussion of the process and numbers will be published in this month’s Watershed District column, which is scheduled to be published in the Albert Lea Tribune early next week. In the meantime, I would appreciate your help in disseminating this corrected information and in encouraging citizens to attend our monthly meetings, call or visit our office, or visit our website for more information (www.shellrock.org).

© 2015 Shell Rock River Watershed District, 305 S 1st Avenue, Albert Lea, MN 56007