A meeting between the Manchester City Council and the Delaware County Board of Supervisors attempted to answer a $64,000 question.
Specifically, what to do moving forward about a lien on the land purchased for the new Delaware County sheriff office and jail that totals $63,113.40.
Both groups met at the Manchester Fire Station, June 29, to see if a solution could be found.
The site for the new facility is lots six, seven and eight in the Deer Field Third Addition on the west side of Manchester.
At the time the supervisors purchased the property, it was classified as ag deferred. That classification had been in place since the city had developed the road and utilities into the area in 2009.
“The assessment was put in place when the street project was done,” Manchester City Manager Tim Vick explained. “We were negotiating with four different property owners at the time to get the land for the street. Because it was farmland, under Iowa Code, those owners can defer their assessment. It doesn’t come into play until they change the use of the land.”
The supervisors believe that Iowa Code Chapter 445 gives them the authority to abate deferred taxes on the property. The city sees the amount not as taxes, but as a lien on the property and is seeking an opinion from the Iowa Attorney General to see if they have a right to collect from the county.
Near the end of the meeting, Vick shared an update concerning a possible opinion from the attorney general.
“Speaking with our attorney Jim Peters and our bond counsel, it doesn’t appear to be a conflict because of the way they interpret it. The assessments were not due until the property either changed hands or classification. Under Chapter 445, that allows taxes that were due at the time to be abated. These taxes weren’t due until you purchased the property. So, the question really comes down to is if Chapter 445 is the legal route to do that. And as you know, attorneys provide opinions. It’s not until a judge rules on it that you know.”
Earlier in the meeting, councilmember Mary Ann Poynor asked the supervisors about what they were expecting from the council, saying, “What are you hoping for? If we are going to try to come up with a deal, I need to know where you are coming from.”
Poynor then suggested dropping the interest on the amount due. “I’m trying to come up with something that gives us both something to work with,” she said.
Forgiving the interest would come to over $8,000 over the repayment period if the supervisors chose to pay the amount over 10 years.
Responding to the offer of interest forgiveness later in the meeting, supervisor Shirley Helmrichs said, “From where I am sitting, $63,000 minus $8,000 really doesn’t compute in my brain.”
Vick offered a suggestion to the groups. “It’s a bad precedent to waive assessments. If the council wanted to figure out a way to rebate money back to the supervisors that’s on the council to figure out how to do that. I don’t think we necessarily want to take this to a judge to decide. One party isn’t going to be happy in that case.”
The city council will hold a committee meeting Monday, June 6 to discuss the possibility of a rebate. No action may be taken at that meeting. The earliest a decision about a possible rebate offer to the supervisors would be at the Monday, July 13 city council meeting.