Friday, October 10

$2.20 Says We All Can Conserve Land Now!

Now I am not a big new taxes kind of guy, but opponents of the Johnson County Bond Initiative that is on the November 4th ballot to create a land trust for conservation fail to understand that this is one of the cheapest bonds we will ever pass. Heck, its paid for in no more than the next 20 years. At no more than $20 million, it's two million dollars a year or $2.20 per month to the average property owner. I'll gladly forego a couple cups of coffee a month for land that will serve as a buffer between the Iowa River and me, provide recreation opportunities, and will give wildlife a chance.

This local investment will be leveraged with grants, donations, and federal, state and private money for a likely multiplying effect of 2.5 to 3 times, for a total investment of $50 to $60 million for our land, water and recreation areas.

Another other thing is the land that is put into conservation is sold voluntarily, no eminent domain issue here.

Finally, and best of all, the land conservation will be managed by the Johnson County Conservation Board that is open and transparent. The plan will be flexible, comprehensively developed with citizen input, and will be subject to annual audits.

But like all issues involving differing opinions, there are two sides.

The "FLIP No" side says we have enough land in conservation, that the bond does not spell out what land will be bought with the money and has no time limit for expiration.

Here's one side of the story
and here's the other


Katherine said...

For arguments sake, let’s say you are correct and this $20,000,000 will be leveraged with grants, Federal and State matching funds and private donations so that there will then be $60,000,000 to spend on buying land in Johnson County. What does that then do to our taxes, when you take $60,000,000 worth of land out of the Johnson County tax base? The land that will be bought with this money will no longer be in the tax base.

I’ll tell you what it does. It raises your taxes on that end, as well as this end.

Katherine Hogendorn
Solon, Iowa

Gark said...


I like a good argument. So let's continue it.

1) You are talking about two different taxes: property taxes and income taxes--they aren't the same thing. Who says that income tax rates are going up? It is property tax that is affected--and what I'm talking about (and at $2.20 a month to support the bond, this is about the price of commuting in from Solon to Iowa City, one way, in one day).

2) These grants for conservation matches are out there today, but have to be leveraged against local monies to qualify.

2)The third, and most important point is it is a bond referendum, meaning it has an end date. In twenty years, real estate prices will likely rise--and probably a lot given our county rate of growth. This is an investment toward future land conservation--which will be a good investment, as the state has many other priorities and anti-tax folks are looking for cuts everywhere.

As I learned recently, 60 of Johnson County's 623 sq miles are held in parks, recreation, and conservancy, that's less than 10% of all land and water resources. For a county that prides itself on its rural beginnings and its progressive vision, it seems like another 10-15,000 acres in trust is a good investment (particularly for a county that is 5 times more populated than it was 100 years ago).