March 20, 2011 - Davenport, Iowa | Members of the Iowans For Accountability were joined by other Scott County taxpayers at the open house for the $28M, 28,000+ square foot Consolidated Dispatching Center, aka SECC911 building. Below is the copy from the handbill that was handed out to dozens of attendees. The video of the tour is also embedded below for review.
From the flyer handed out and embedded/linked below.
Did You Know These SECC911 Facts?
Unelected SECC Board with Unlimited Taxing Authority
The question is NOT if it was a good idea to consolidate the 3 dispatch services for cost and safety reasons. We were told it would save taxpayers $4.6 million over 20 years. That figure came from a $103,000 Consolidation Study that outlined how that savings could be achieved through a 6,000 square foot building, costing $2.3 million, and $2.1 million to equip the building.
Instead, SECC911 is now a $26 million project carrying $28 million of debt for 20 years, and is the 2nd largest expenditure of the County budget at $8 million dollars a year.
How did an expenditure of this magnitude never come before the people as a referendum?
1. Create an independent authority through a joint powers agreement, (the intergovernmental agreement for SECC). The board of directors put in place then has the power to enter into contracts, acquire property, and the authority to approve the purchases.
2. The County board of supervisors has the ability to create a “local emergency management Fund” and fund this authority through a special levy. That levy is not subject to any of the caps on taxes.”
3. “The City of Davenport is classified as a “Charter City and has the ability to finance capital improvements through the sale of bonds authorized by the City Council”. With a vote by the Davenport City Council, the taxpayer now has a $14 million, 20 year building debt.
4. The Board of Supervisors then used its bonding powers for the purchase of the emergency communication systems. The SECC budget will authorize the repayment each year for the County’s debt service. So while we all snoozed, we took on a second 20 year, $14 million debt for equipment.
And that’s how a project that would carry a $28 million debt never came before the people as a referendum.
Yes, it’s done. We’re standing here looking at a 28,450 square foot building. What we can do now, however, is diligently watch over its $8 million a year price tag. The levy is uncapped.
There will be
immediate pressure to increase taxes.
1. The service contracts that were placed in long term debt will expire and grow the operating budget,
2. Equipment will become obsolete before we’ve paid that 20 year debt, and we’ll be paying for replacement and the original debt.
3. The payroll expense ($4.4M) now sits at where it was projected to be in 2017 and grows each year.
4. The intergovernmental agreement states that 30 months after consolidation, if mutually agreed by the SECC Board and Medic, the 9 Medic dispatchers will become Scott County employees. This could impact the SECC budget by another $650K in salary and benefits
5. SECC is required to build a $1.2 million fund balance reserve.
6. The residential tax rollback is expected to increase by 4% for the next 7 years. Will these additional tax dollars be used to lower the levy rate or grow the agency?
7. Taxation to pay for SECC goes beyond the new tax levy for the long term debt. We have a 911 fee on our cell phone bills, and Scott county could implement a new wireline 911 surcharge. More taxes, more fees, more money.
Now We Know,
In the end, however, the most important lesson is to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
Understand how intergovernmental agreements are formed—now we know what can and did happen when a board has the power to contract, purchase, and approve their own purchases and have a uncapped levy at their disposal to pay for it. Will you now engage, attend meetings, watch the board actions and get involved?