PANORA, Iowa -- For two decades, millions of dollars in taxes have been shelled out to help maintain lakes most taxpayers aren't allowed to enjoy. Now politicians are considering continuing the program although residents think the money should go elsewhere.
House file 557 applies towards taxing residents in rural counties to upkeep private lakes water quality. The bill defines rural as population few than 20,000 residents.
Since 1997, Guthrie County tax payers helped beautify and increase property value at Lake Panorama. Through a RIZ, or Rural Improvement Zone (which is similar to tax increment financing), taxpayers contributed almost 2 million dollars a year for 20 years to the private lake, on top of lake association fees.
Guthrie County supervisor, Mike Dickson said, “The lake doesn’t need that much to operate anymore.” He said at first the money was a good thing and helped get the lake on its feet. Now he worries the proposal could keep millions of unnecessary dollars pouring into the lake.
Channel 13 reached out to the bill's sponsor, Representative Clel Baudler (R – Adair), several times but he did not return our calls. The bill states an engineer must estimate the current amount of silt in the lake every 20 years and report its findings back to the state.
Dickson says that's a problem.
“Lake Panorama was built on a river so there is always going to be silt coming down from the river. There is always going to be a need for dredging which an engineer’s report would say.”
Based on the wording of the bill, Dickson says the RIZ would likely continue to be in place indefinitely; requiring all lake and non – lake residents in the county to contribute 1.7 million dollars annually.
Dickson said, “It’s even more frustrating that there are property owners out here who are very influential down at the state house who are pushing for this bill.”
According to the Guthrie County Assessor, Governor Branstad owns property on the lake.
“We may need to look at our priorities. We have roads falling apart and we have bridges falling apart that stuff needs to be addressed,” said Dickson.
Dickson says the county has roughly 1.6 million dollars set aside for secondary road maintenance compared to the 1.7 million dollars aimed towards maintaining the lake.
Besides Lake Panorama, Diamond-head Lake in Guthrie County, Sundown Lake in Appanoose County, Sun Valley Lake in Ringgold County and Holiday Lake in Poweshieck County all fall under the guidelines of the proposed bill.