Change needed in LF mayoral office 

To the Editor:

The Little Falls City Council, led by Mayor VanRisseghem, voted for a resolution that proposes a sales tax for one-half cent  to pay for a $7.9 million Recreation Complex and Splash Pad (July 13 Record).

I strongly believe this tax increase proposal to be fiscally irresponsible and a serious barrier to job creation. The small businesses that are so important to Little Falls are already overburdened with significant increases in their property taxes.

Minnesota’s sales tax rate of 6.875 percent is fifth highest in the nation. California is highest at 7.25 percent.

Under this proposal, Little Falls residents would be paying a rate of 7.375 percent — more than that of any state in the nation.

The current bonded indebtedness for the city of Little Falls is an astounding $24.697 million with interest payments totaling an additional $4.494 million.

It should be a much higher priority for the mayor and Council to first pay down this debt before they incur more on recreation/splash pads. We have and need to maintain strong police and fire departments. Infrastructure, water and sewer, streets, sidewalks and public safety must always be a city’s highest priorities.

There is, indeed, an urgent need for change in the mayor’s office. — Steve Wenzel, Little Falls

  • robin hensel

    Amen Steve!!!

  • robin hensel

    BIG GOVERNMENT is not working in Swellville. Not only is the city indebted, the BIG GOVERNMENT ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT corporate business welfare money is bankrupting taxpayers as well.

  • newpolitiq7

    Mr. Wenzel’s first statement that the Little Falls City Council “voted for a resolution that proposes a sales tax for one-half cent to pay for a $7.9 million Rec Complex and Splash pad”, seems intentionally divisive and somewhat inaccurate. In fact, the Council’s decision was to let the voters of Little Falls decide on this project. For all we know, many individual council members may choose to vote “no” on this, but are leaving it up to their constituents to decide.

    While I’m not sure yet how I’ll vote on this resolution (and am leaning toward “no”), I’m happy that I have a chance to weigh in at the polls. The unique and varied combination of public and private investment in this project may, in fact, be something that some of my fellow citizens admire, and wish to vote for. At a time when interest rates are still historically low, an economic argument can certainly be made that now is the time to invest in this type of project. But what better democratic way to duke this out than by putting it on the ballot?

    While Mr. Wenzel is as entitled as the next voter to his own set of spending priorities, his is just one of many votes. Do we really have to launch the Mayoral race by framing this issue with what seems like hackneyed, simplistic partisan “analysis”? (or, is this just a shot across the bow signaling that he or one of his minions intends to run for Mayor?)

  • my veiw

    Granted we don’t need more taxes but if certain dishonest people would stop making sure that they get theres and actually stick to what they agreed to. this would free up some resourses

  • Rick Witte

    Interesting commentary considering the fact that both, so far, declared candidates for Mayor voted to ask the voters to approve the Local Option Sales Tax. If this is a back door attempt for voters to vote for Greg Zylka it seems Steve is being a bit dishonest in his commentary. Of course there may be a dark horse candidate, but we’ll have to see.

    Steve also fails to mention that the Mayor and Council are in fact asking the voters to approve the tax. If they approve they will vote yes, if not they will vote no. In all it is essentially up to the voters to determine whether or not the Local Option Sales Tax will be approved or not.

    Perhaps Steve you could inform us as to how the level of tax would equate to other Minnesota Cities which have such a tax. Steve I have no problem with citizens being against the tax, and intending to vote against it, but I question why in your commentary you made no mention or encouragement for voters to vote no?

  • newpolitiq7

    I shared this Mr. Wenzel’s letter with someone who works daily in St. Paul with issues regarding MN taxation, and he provided numbers that prove Mr. Wenzel’s statement about “significant increases in business property taxes” to be incorrect: “Total business property taxes in Little Falls actually fell by over 3% from 2013 to 2014. Furthermore, total city expenditures per capita are 10% below the average for other similar cities based on 2012 data from the State Auditor. (“Similar cities” defined as greater MN cities with population over 5,000.)

    Furthermore, regional and sub-regional centers in greater MN are increasingly relying on local sales taxes to pay for projects of regional significance, so Little Falls will not stand out if it enacts a local sales tax. Relying on local sales taxes to pay for projects of regional significance makes sense, because it spreads the cost of these projects to taxpayers who live outside the city, but who come to the city to shop and enjoy city amenities.”

    I may or may not vote for Mayor VanRisseghem again — haven’t decided, but Mr. Wenzel’s assertion that this specific proposal is “fiscally irresponsible and a barrier to job creation” is just not proven.

    • Concerned citizen

      How about a web site or documentation proving these statistic?

      • newpolitiq7 This is from a property tax simulation prepared by nonpartisan staff at the Research Dept of the MN House. “Specifically, the 3% plus business property tax decline is based on a comparison of aggregate 2013 and 2014 property taxes for the following four classes of property: (1) commercial/industrial: low existing, (2) commercial/industrial: high existing, (3) public utility: electric generation, and (4) public utility: other. The information for Little Falls is found on page 478 of the simulation.”

      • newpolitiq7

        Hi, Jeff, I accidentally clicked “send” before adding personal note. In addition to the above site, there are many more if you google “MN legislature wrap-up, 2014”, or just “MN property tax reductions, 2013-14” — lots of info on property tax reductions, including for small business. I’m gone now on an “unplugged” vacation (no more cheating — all electronic devices unplugged/powered down!), but would welcome continuing conversation upon my return.

  • Concerned citizen

    Bottom Line: Thank you Mr. Wenzel for bringing this subject forward, and asking for a new administration to replace the failed/failing current admin. Coming from a life long upstanding public servant such as yourself, I hope people heed your advice/warning.

    • Rick Witte

      Being the consummate politician his is/was it is interesting to note that Mr. Wenzel isnt clear as to whom he would support. It seems he missed his opportunity to pull for Mr. Zylka, but then it would have shot a hole in his thesis. Cant pull for Mr. Zylka in the same letter he chastises the Mayor for voting for a Local Option Sales Tax when Mr. Zylka voted for it.

      He claims it is an example of poor leadership on the part of the Mayor but that then mean Mr. Zylka has no leadership skills and is merely a lapdog follower? Afterall he did just go with the pack and vote to propose the tax to the voters.

      As a career politician I guess this is what to expect. Falicy and fiction the politicians bag of tricks.

      • Concerned citizen

        Why does he have to be pulling for anyone? His thoughts/opinions are his thoughts/opinions……. Tax increase is a tax increase no matter how you look at it?

        • Rick Witte

          I liken it to inference by omission. Mr. Wenzel informs us that the City needs a change in leadership because of the Local Option Sales Tax proposal. At this point in time that leaves only one other choice. What Mr. Wenzel conveniently fails to mention is that one other choice also voted for the proposal.

          If it was irresponsible for the Mayor to vote for forwarding the proposal to the voters was it not also irresponsible for Mr. Zylka to do the same? He couldnt put irresponsibility and Mr. Zylka in the same letter as that would have given Mr. Zylka his share of the responsibility. He wouldnt do that to one he would be supporting.

          I seriously doubt that he would be a supporter of Ms. Hensel so that leaves only one other choice unless of course he knows of another considering a run. That still leaves the question as to why he did not share the responsibility?

          Yes, a tax increase is a tax increase, but how many tax increases Mr. Wenzel supported during his political career did he let the voters decide?

          • robin hensel

            Why do you doubt his support of me? Just curious. He teaches political science and has keen knowledge of the constitution.

          • Rick Witte

            Just my opinion, based on certain assumptions. Seems that although he was/is a Democrat, not sure of his current affiliation, Mr. Wenzel tends to be a bit conservative. Also factor in that he is featured in the current Record for one of the Republican candidates running in the Primary for Govenor. I would find it difficult to see that this Conservative leaning politician would be inclined to support someone as Liberal as yourself, but then stranger things have happened.

            Yes he teaches, but that gives him no more import than any other voter in the City.

          • Rick Witte

            Robin, I see you have finally filed the paperwork for running for Mayor as Jody had informed us of earlier. Will have to attend some of the candidate forums as this could prove to be interesting.