Corbin H. Crable
A resolution of intent to issue industrial revenue bonds totaling $500 million for the construction of facilities related to the intermodal breezed through the Edgerton City Council on July 8.
It took council members only minutes to make the $500 million decision. Scott Anderson of Kutak Rock LLC, treated the approval of the resolution as a foregone conclusion before the public hearing opened, and said council members could discuss further but had to issue a decision under obligation of contract.
In essence, the city had unofficially agreed to approve the IRB issuance before the public hearing occurred Thursday.
“You can discuss this as long as you want, but you’re contractually obligated (to issue a resolution of intent),” Anderson said.
He later elaborated on that statement to The Gardner News.
“What the city had agreed to was to adopt a form of a resolution of intent,” Anderson said later. “If they want to continue with the logistics park project, at some point before the first building goes in, they are contractually obligated to adopt the resolution of intent.”
Under state statute, governing bodies must convene public hearings before making decisions on topics such as issuing IRBs.
The lone speaker for the public hearing on the bonds was USD 231 Superintendent Bill Gilhaus, who noted that he had only recently received a cost benefit analysis on the project, slated to receive a 10-year, 75-percent tax abatement. The school district is the taxing entity that stands to benefit least from the project, receiving only 50 cents for each dollar it gives up related to the project. And as the town’s population grows with each facility built on the logistics park property, the school district’s resources will continue to stretch thin, Gilhaus said.
Because Gardner and Edgerton share a school district, taxpayers in both communities may see a tax increase.
“We’re concerned this places an additional burden on our district’s financial well-being,” Gilhaus said in a prepared statement. “We’re not here to judge the merit of the project. Our concern is the 75-percent tax abatement.”
Anderson said he understood USD 231’s concern but implied that it should be thankful it would receive anything period.
“You could argue that if the abatement is not there, the district would get nothing at all,” he said. “What we don’t know is how quickly people will come to the community or when the buildings will go up.”
Council members themselves did not see the cost benefit analysis until City Administrator David Dillner gave it to them only minutes before the meeting began. Even then, council members only received part of the analysis, not the entire report in whole.
“For you not to have that information is concerning to me,” Gilhaus told the council, to which Mayor Don Roberts said he agreed.
Gilhaus told council members that as the school district’s student population rises, so too would the need to build yet another school in the district. He said he has estimated population growth of 458 students over the next decade, while the cost benefit analysis has formulated its numbers around a projected increase of 182 students over the next 10 years. Currently, Gilhaus said, USD 231 serves 4,500 students, and the cost to educate each student is $7,350 per year. That cost is even higher when it comes to educating students with special needs, he said.
“We are going to have to build an additional facility,” Gilhaus told the council. “That is a concern. But the bigger concern is the cost of that facility.”
Dillner noted that the cost benefit analysis does not take into account general population growth for the city, nor does it take into account ancillary business development surrounding the logistics park.
Anderson said the city will need to convene a public hearing regarding funding for each proposed building on the logistics park property.
“If all goes as planned, we’ll be meeting like this a lot,” he said.