First levy increase since 2012?! I don’t think so

Laker Dec 21 ArticleI blogged about the misuse of statistics back in October and how omitting information, leaving out something significant that, if known, would lead the reader/listener to a different conclusion from what was presented, could manipulate residents. Well, today our favorite local newspaper, The Laker, has been manipulated. But don’t blame the reporter. She was only reporting what she had read on the city’s slide presented at the December 2 public hearing on the 2020 levy increase which said:

“General Fund levy has not been increased since 2012 and had decreased from 2010 before that”

Somehow the reporter got the idea, from the statement above, that the tax levy in Minnetrista hadn’t gone up in eight years. Hmm, I wonder if residents in Minnetrista think the same thing. Anyone familiar with Minnetrista’s tax levy history knows there has been a tax levy increase almost every year since 2012 and we got another whopper 5.66% increase this year.

The byline in the December 21 story on page 18 states “Final levy close to that submitted in September, first increase since 2012” (Emphasis added). Oops, someone actually printed what they were told, and in a very public way. It’s always been okay to mislead people as long as it was done quietly, but headlines advertising the deception are another matter. The reporter was quickly contacted by the city and told to correct the online story and reminded that she should have run the story by the city.

How would a regular citizen interpret this slide?General Fun levy has not increased

Note also how the slide says “Staff is proposing an option reducing the net preliminary tax levy increase….” instead of the reality of staff proposing a 5.66% increase, which, by the way, was adopted on a 4-1 vote (Bruce dissenting).

So what was missing from this slide and why did the reporter need to correct the story? First, there are several funds, other than the “general fund,” included in the tax levy. There is a debt fund, a road maintenance fund, and a CIP levy that, in addition to the general fund levy, comprise the taxable levy. Most people don’t know that and the only reason this statement was on this slide is to take advantage of the fact that most people don’t know that.

Bottom line is the city of Minnetrista wants more of your money but they want you to hand it over without complaining. To do that requires manipulation of the facts and they are very good at that.

 

July 13, 2018

WE NEED ANSWERS to these questions before taking additional steps toward spending millions on another water tower and treatment plant in the Southwest sector:

1. Minnetrista’s new 2040 Comprehensive plan shows a total number of municipal water connections in 2015 as 1,648 but the commissioned study shows far fewer connections at 1,245 in 2015. We should have accurate data from 2015. Why are these numbers so different? When I see discrepancies like this it doesn’t give me confidence in our growth projections.

2. According to Minnetrista’s 2040 Comprehensive plan there has been a downward trend in Total per capita and Maximum Daily Water Demands for the past several years. Why does the commissioned study show Maximum Daily Per Capita Water use increasing by 78% in 2016 (from 198gpd to 353gpd)? Are these estimates or actual numbers, and if actual what was the cause of the dramatic rise?

3. Why are the Maximum Daily Demand numbers missing for 2011? All years preceding and post are there. We should have this number in our system.

4. If a new tower is built what would the estimated average cost be for city water users? What is the best case scenario (we reach growth projections anticipated) and worst case (we don’t). I’m asking for estimates, not actuals. I realize there are unknowns (interest rates, timeframe, construction costs, possible land acquisition) but we need to do a business case/risk analysis before going forward. Let’s identify the variables, plug estimates in and figure it out.

5. Will the cost for the new water tower and its maintenance be spread across all city water users or only those in the SW sector that are served by that system?

6. What is our break-even point, i.e., when we have enough new water connections and users to pay the debt service on the revenue bonds (money borrowed to build tower)?

7. How many new water connections are anticipated in the SW each year? What is the Average Water Use per connection in the SW? Have we asked the builders (Matamy, HP Holdings, etc) for their new construction estimates? It isn’t enough to just look at the total number of building permits throughout the entire city in projecting future growth and water use. Some of our past growth has occurred in other parts of the city. There is also the fact of diminishing land available for growth in the SW. Growth cannot be projected to continue steadily forever as it will undoubtedly diminish over time as this area reaches capacity.

8. Are we pulling annual water usage only on connections that were active for the entire year? If we’re not then the Average Daily Water Use Per Connection numbers are not accurate in the commissioned water study.