Flood Warning

Taxpayers Unhappy Toward Funding Private Lakes

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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.


  • Fed UP

    Just remember guys, Terry always wins. He’s in his last run and all systems are go…………………….

  • Debbie

    Thank you WHO & Mike Dickson for bringing this to our attention! The time is up for Branstad and his neighbors to start paying their taxes.

    • Dan

      this is an unfair comment I live at the lake and have grown up here. I didn’t ask the Gov. to move here and why he was just lumped into this story is a bad tactic. I pay all of my taxes, I pay all of my lake dues. I am concerned about where the money is going as I do pay quite a bit, and things seam to go unfixed. And this is a surprise to many residents here about the additional funds. Don’t throw out comments like this.

      • marcopolish

        That may be, but then you have the problem of more taxes paying for what, if it doesn’t go into your upkeep, is it then just siphoned off as direct graft? And why should taxpayers pay for your upkeep if they can’t use the lake at all in the first place? Other people pay your bills and you get to enjoy it and even sell it at a profit later, all on the backs of the rest of us? What’s unfair to you? It’s us that are being robbed.

      • Denny Reynolds

        The State doesn’t pay for a private lake in MY backyard ?? And, what would the total be over all the years ? It is interesting to know that 30 t0 40 years ago the State first had dibs on that land, I believe ? And, my family knew the guy that was involved in buying property for the DNR for fishing and camping areas. He and others studied that land and determined that it would be too costly to keep that silt out ? And, Lo and Behold, he was so right, but the State still PAYS, but the Taxpayers can’t PLAY ! I would hope that Branstad and his conservatives would look up the history ? Better yet, I WILL, and pass it along. ;<}

    • marcopolish

      Because they can get away with it, Silly. They have learned that if you try to steal and get away with it, great. If not, oh well, keep trying, people are too busy with their own problems, X-boxes, March Madness, people are lazy and distracted or uninformed and really asleep, and sheep are for shearing after all. That’s what they do.

    • BobDole

      Because you are one of the “little people” that Clel and Terry don’t care about (other than taking your money for something the lake owners should be paying for themselves).

  • Marylee

    Ole Terry had to find another way to get more taxes out of Iowa residents!! He socked us with the gas tax to pay for the roads! Why was he let back in office was greed. I thought I heard someplace that Gov’s do not pay State taxes… Let the residents of the lake pay for the lake maintenance……. They want to live the lake life then they need to pay for the lifestyle……

  • Alan farnsworth

    The previous guthrie co assessor told me several years ago that lake panorama pays a lot of taxes but the county gives them a lot back in services and helps pay for dredging. Most guthrie county residents have not been aware of this.

  • Informed Taxpayer

    I really enjoyed the story and the fact about how the information was assumed accurate and correct. The comments didn’t seem to help much as we are always talking about Economic Development is the only way to make this state grow. The same county as this lake is in has an ethanol plant which is privately owned and will pay no taxes for 10 years. This is the definition of tax dollars going to a private owned company. I would also ask the interviewer how much growth has occurred at the lake that has broadened the tax base for the county to keep the county levies lower as a result. How about the intentional attempt for an elected official to drive a wedge between the citizens of the county in order to further his agenda. It appears a last a ditch effort to save face after many attempts to workout an amicable deal failed and continue to see the growth continue in the county. Or just drink the kool aid and jump on the political bandwagon with the information you have, seems to make sense?

    • More informed

      Except what you fail to mention is that the enthanol plant was given a 10 year abatement ( which is about up) in return they paved the road and set up everything at no cost to the county. That’s a poor comparison in my eyes.
      If you want to compare apples to oranges by citing the ethanol plant than go ahead but the abatement was an agreement between the county and the plant it was not forced onto the backs of taxpayers by the state. Everyone knows about the abatement and the agreement between the county and ethanol plant, whether they agree or not it’s transparent and public knowledge . This bill seems to be have kept hush hush.

      • informed Taxpayer

        The agreement that has been in place between the county and the RIZ that has been in place over the years has been effective and transparent. The efforts were made to keep it at the local level over the last year or so but the county refused to work on the agreement and thus the reason for the appeal to the legislature to make this process work. Furthermore, please explain to the audience who is paying for this private lakes security or road maintenance and how many tax dollars don’t go to those expenses. And how about the way the RIZ is funded, the only tax dollars that go to the private lake are the ones paid and collected from the RIZ district. Not one of my tax dollars from my home in Yale go to the private lake. Keep on informing me of the facts, I love to learn !!!!

  • Tim Newman

    The benefit of increased tax revenue from the lake to Guthrie County by far outweighs the money supposedly lost by the RIZ.
    If it wasn’t for Lake Panorama, the county would be in far worse shape. You only need to look at some of the neighboring counties and see how they are struggling to see the difference!

  • Cornfed

    Funny, nobody seems to be complaining about the extra commerce and tax base that a development like Panorama brings to a county. Nor am I aware of any complaints about the taxes that help support local schools, even though most people paying them do not have kids in the local district. For those who don’t understand an RIZ (which I bet includes almost all of you) it diverts increased property taxes that result from improvements to the properties. But people are still paying the taxes, and not all of the money is used for lake upkeep. Take away the lake, and all those lake houses, and you got nothin’. Would that be your choice? It’s a controversial role for government, to be sure, but can’t you all at least recognize that there are pluses and minuses to the argument? Why is this different than a tax break for a company to move to Iowa? Do most people benefit directly from that? No, but they benefit from the overall economic growth that it brings. Many people want the tax money the lake brings, but don’t want to do anything to maintain the lake that makes it all possible. See the bigger picture, folks.

    • marcopolish

      See the bigger picture…just stay out of here and off of our beautiful fun lakeshore property. It’s a tough life here on the lake, but somebody has to live it. Oh the sacrifices I make for my community and the state taxpayers over in those poor counties along the south…and the north…and all those other places without a nice big private recreation lake. “Having a great time here, wish you could have one of your own…well not really, but you help pay for mine…and will pay even more, if that bill can get through quietly.”

    • marcopolish

      Look, it’s not important who pays for it (you do), the important thing is, as the sign says, it’s a private beach, owners and guests only, so stay out. You locals, you do get to make maybe an extra payment on that rent-to-own junk suite, or an extra month or two getting to waitress down at the diner, so don’t say we didn’t give you something. People are so ungrateful.

      • informed Taxpayer

        It is hard for me to follow your argument and separate from the well written sarcasm. Please explain to us how a RIZ and TIF work? Who pays for it and how it is disseminated? I understand that these funding processes are in place all over the state and much of the area they are used benefit private businesses or owners. Why do you think this one has garnered all the opposition and emotion?

  • M

    This is a bunch of BS. TAXPAYERS funding PRIVAE LAKES? LAKES we as the PUBLIC CANT OR ARENT ALLOWED TO ENJOY? Are our legislaters STUPID or in bed with the RICH? We cant fund PUBLIC projects lets alone doing somthing as assinine as this!

  • Straight Shooter

    Those that say the taxpayers are paying for it are correct to a point. All the residents of the Lake community are taxpayers and the RIZ is funded by those that live in the lake community. As another person commented the only dollars attributed to the lake upkeep are from the RIZ district. Think about this, if the agreement had not been struck in the first place many of the houses around the lake would not have been built if there was not a way to maintain the lake. Having part of the property taxes go to the lake improvement is a win win. With a strong lake community and a long term plan, the property values stay higher thus funding more tax dollars for the rest of Guthrie county. The same house that is located on the lake was in one of the smaller neighboring towns would have significantly less value. I wild urge those quick to judge for a good story to do a little more research in the facts.

  • Scorcher

    I doubt that I will ever use the lake….but you never know. My friend tried to fish there years ago and after he got there,found out he couldn’t. Simple solution,put in a public boat launch and dock with the ‘out side of the community’ tax revenue to make it accessible to all tax payers. What’s wrong with that?

    • More informed

      I hope people line up in the county to go swimming there this summer! I’m not sure I heard anything about fishing though. I don’t buy this “we’re not really private” statement one bit. A lot of back peddling and damage control .

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