Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Petition Launched to Call for Lowering of Residential Tax Levy Rates Across Scott County, Iowa


Contact: Mark Nelson | info@opt4better.org | 563-340-2597 TUESDAY JANUARY 17, 2012

Local Option Sales Tax Revocation on the November Ballot Considered If Locally Elected Don't Take Action Now

DAVENPORT, IOWA - Citizens seeking residential property tax relief in Scott County announced a weeklong online and printed petition blitz at a late morning news conference hosted at the Davenport Public Library. The City of Davenport is holding its public budget hearing Jan 18th and is slated to vote on that budget January 25th. Numerous additional taxing authorities, including cities, schools and the county will be following suit this month.

The announcement included a presentation from the founder of Opt4Better.org, Mark Nelson, where he outlined how the statewide mandated allowable taxable valuation on homes in Iowa, aka the Rollback, has increased in each of the past four years. And, overall tax rates have increased each of the past five years.

"When the state rollback is increased, local taxing authorities enjoy a windfall of revenue before any budgeting discussions are had," said Nelson. "We see that as a clear opportunity for local taxing authorities to live within their means and lower the tax levy rates. This is not found money nor is it a license to increase spending."

Nelson addressed three primary concerns on behalf of property owners in Scott County.

1) A need for increased awareness about the complex and overlapping taxation documentation home owners receive in the mail about their property tax assessment and tax bills

2) Local governments need to acknowledge publicly the significant increase in revenues due to state Rollback increases and pursue a genuine reduction in expenditures, not a reduction in the rate of future growth

3) State legislators need to simplify the tax system and freeze residential taxable value percentages and provide stability to homeowners. The state needs to give municipalities the tools to reduce their costs and cease the mandates that take away flexibility in negotiating with unions.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Lower Tax Levy Rates in Scott County | Petition News Conference Announced

----- MEDIA ADVISORY ------



WHERE: Downtown Davenport Public Library - Basement Film / Meeting Room

WHO: Opt4Better Citizens Action Group

All elected officials, the media and public at large are invited to attend a presentation from Opt4Better founder Mark Nelson regarding support for a Scott County wide petition to lower tax levy rates during current local government budgeting processes.

In March 2009, Nelson, a successful regional commercial appraiser and Davenport resident and taxpayer, led the effort to educate the local electorate in support of defeating the Davenport Promise entitlement program referendum.

Opt4Better is seeking more public education and transparency regarding the residential assessment, valuation and tax collecting processes by all local jurisdictions.

Nelson will provide historical data on the residential taxable valuations, (aka Rollback) and share analysis yet to be discussed in the public sphere.

He will outline the fiscally sound reasons taxpayers should require all locally elected officials in the municipalities, county and school districts to lower the tax levy rates now, for the 2012-2013 tax bill.

Nelson will provide options to save Scott County taxpayer's money via sound governmental cuts and fiscal policy changes. Efforts state legislators must take to simplify residential taxes and provide municipalities the tools to control costs will also be addressed.

Finally, Nelson will address measures voters can take during this Fall's general election, should local officials not heed the petitions to reduce levy rates being determined now.

The presentation is expected to take 20 minutes with time for Q&A afterwards.
More details and handouts will be available at the news conference.

Questions: Contact Mark Nelson at 563-340-2597 or info@opt4better.org

# # #

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Opt4Better Agrees to Help Return Public Safety Funding to the Ballot in November

Bill Lynn, 5th Ward alderman, will host a short news conference Monday, March 2, at 1:15 p.m. at City Hall, 226 West 4th Street, Davenport, IA.

"The voters could have voted on shifting sales tax funds to public safety independent of the Promise entitlement program," says Bill Lynn, 5th Ward Alderman. "Mayor Gluba broke the tie vote that would have allowed refocusing sales tax funds to public safety without the unneeded, and costly, Promise program. The problem with the 10% on the referendum is that it does not guarantee one more public safety employee, nor one more dollar being spent on public safety."

"We’re surprised anyone understands the Davenport City government with the current financial manipulations and lack of transparency," say Mark Nelson, chairman of Opt4Better. "Playing on taxpayers’ real concerns for public safety and high taxes doesn’t help that understanding. Mayor Gluba clearly has no more concern for Davenport’s public safety problems and high property tax rates beyond pandering for Promise votes."

"We do understand how more funding for public safety can help Davenport grow," says Nelson. "
But, voters who are concerned about public safety shouldn’t have to pay for an entitlement program that will burden the taxpayers. If the Aldermen do not do the right thing, and return this issue to the voters when the Promise referendum fails, we agree to help petition to return the 10% reallocation of sales tax funds to the ballot in November."

"We also will help campaign in November for greater transparency in the City’s budgeting," says Nelson. "We trust the voters to understand and make decisions without the political manipulations being used to support the Promise proposal."

Opt4Better, is the nonpartisan taxpayers’ watchdog working to lower taxes and bring a more limited government to Davenport.

The Website for this campaign is nomorepromises.com.

Mark Nelson can be contacted Phone: 563-340-2597; Email at opt4better@mchsi.com

Thursday, February 19, 2009

NO Votes on Davenport Promise Task Force and Former Mayor to Speak Out in Public Forum

For Immediate Release/February 19, 2009

News Release

NO Votes on Davenport Promise Task Force and Former Mayor to Speak Out in Public Forum

A news conference and public forum will be held Saturday, February 21, at 3:30 pm at the Northwest Branch of the Davenport Library, 3000 North Fairmount Street, Davenport, IA.

Jeff Heuer, Sue Ketelsen, Sharon Fortney and Dr. Ted Woodruff, four members of the Davenport Promise Task Force who voted against the Davenport Promise proposal, will present their opinions on the Task Force's decision making process. They will be available for public questions after their presentations. The NO votes will be joined by Phil Yerington, former Mayor of Davenport, who also opposes the proposal.

"One aspect of the Promise program that concerns me is the drop-out rate. If our students are not prepared for college or if they attend college 'just because they can' they will not succeed, and the Promise money will be wasted," says Ms. Ketelsen, who was appointed to the Task Force by former alderman and current State Senator, Shawn Hamerlinck.

"I wouldn't give any credence to that Upjohn 'so called' Study. It was a bunch of assertions without any kind of analysis," said Dr. Woodruff. Dr. Woodruff, a St. Ambrose University economics professor, was Bill Lynn's appointtee.

In a January 21, 2009, letter to the editor, former Davenport mayorYerington wrote: "If Davenport City Administrator Craig Malin and School Board President Pat Zamora think people are leaving Davenport just because of the school system, they’re fooling themselves. How about the fact that we’ve taxed our citizens to death, appraised homes for so much more than owners can sell them for, and consistently misspent tax dollars on frivolous projects?"

Opt4Better, the non-partisan taxpayer watchdog PAC working to defeat the Promise program, in the March 3, 2009, referendum arranged this forum. "The voters need to know that the Davenport Promise proposal was not developed with a heavily supported consensus. There has been a reasoned and vocal opposition from the beginning, raising the same objections as we are now," says Mark Nelson, chairman of Opt4Better. "The 'No Votes' on the Promise Task Force, along with our former mayor, share our concerns about the validity of the Upjohn Study," continues Nelson, "recognizing that Davenport's taxpayers would receive limited benefits and take on substantial risks if this massive expansion of local government is approved."

The Website for this campaign is nomorepromises.com.

Mark Nelson can be contacted Phone: 563-340-2597; Email at opt4better@mchsi.com

Sharon Fortney
Sharon Fortney is a life-long resident of Davenport. A graduate of Davenport High School she and her husband have three children and eight grandchildren. Before retiring, Fortney enjoyed an accounting career with two local businesses. She has served as a Cub Scout Den Mother and a Vacation Church School Coordinator. Fortney received the Governor’s Award for volunteer work with The Family Connection, and she was honored as the Quad City Woman of the Year by the Junior League of the Quad Cities. She has been involved with the Davenport Action Initiative, served as mentor at Madison School, a volunteer with the Friends of Vander Veer and the Clarissa C. Cook Hospice House, and she coordinates a very active Neighborhood Watch Group. Fortney is appointed by Alderman Ray Ambrose of the 4th Ward.

Jeff Heuer
Jeff Heuer has 30 years of experience in development and small business, and currently works as a Broker Associate in commercial real estate with Premier Partners. He and his family have owned businesses and real estate in Davenport for two generations. A life-long resident of Davenport, he attended Central High School, Palmer Junior College and St. Ambrose University. Heuer has served on the Davenport Planning and Zoning Commission for the past 10 years, the High Performance Government Work Group Governance Resource team, as well as two focus committees for the expansion of John O’Donnell Stadium and AAA baseball. He was a founding member and instrumental in the start up of the Quad Cities Sports Commission and served on that commission for three years. Heuer also serves on the Board of Directors of the Q.C. Fans Association. He is married and has five children. Heuer is appointed by At-Large Alderman Ian Frink.

Theodore S. Woodruff PhD, Professor at SAU
Professor Woodruff teaches micro and macro economics at both the graduate and undergraduate level at St. Ambrose University. Before coming to St. Ambrose to teach in 1995, he taught at St. Bonaventure University in New York and Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. Professor Woodruff has also worked at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington D.C., where he helped formulate public financing policies for medical care. He received his doctoral degree from Columbia University in New York City. Dr. Woodruff is appointed by Alderman Bill Lynn of the 5th Ward.

Sue Ketelsen
Sue Ketelsen has enjoyed a career with KWQC-TV for more than twenty-five years in various capacities, and currently works in the sales department. Ketelsen came to Davenport in the mid-1970s to complete her education at Marycrest College. She volunteers her time as a blood drive coordinator for the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center and as a narrator for the Iowa Department for the Blind. Ketelsen and her husband have one daughter. Sue Ketelsen is appointed by Alderman Shawn Hamerlinck of the 2nd Ward.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Closer You Look, The Worse It Gets

In mulling a response to the character attack lobbed at the Opt4Better activists launched by the Friends of Davenport Promise (Saturday, Quad City Times story), I took another look at the "inconsequential details" in the Upjohn Report. (I now realize that I may have spent more time reviewing that report than the task force did!)

In looking at the "benefits" to the City of Davenport, I realized the property tax revenue projected was a "gross " number. It did not take into account the ongoing expense related to providing city services to these new residents who buy new homes to take advantage of the Promise program.

These new residents surely are going to want police and fire protection. They will need their neighborhood streets maintained, and probably will expect a higher level of snow removal that what the rest of us have gotten use to. With more use, our major traffic arteries will also get more use, and require more maintenance. Our wonderful park systems and heavily used trails will surely get more action.

There are probably a dozen or more city services I am missing. The point is, that new development the Promise program will generate has some expense tied to it. Sure, it is money we didn't have before. But to call all of the revenue a benefit, without recognizing the expenses it also creates is a poor management practice.

These same expenses, and probably more, are attached to the commercial growth that The Promise promoters tout. To cover just the 10th year’s projected "shortfall" will require $140,000,000 in NEW commercially assessed property (the equivalent of adding 2½ NorthPark Malls) be added to the tax roles. This type of intense commercial development clearly creates additional expenses for the city.

I can hear the "naysayer against progress" comment again. No way should this be construed to be against growth. It just acknowledges that with growth comes increased demand for services that need to be recognized. Growth should pay for itself, and not result in an increased burden for all taxpayers.

Of course, not recognizing the costs associate with the benefit is just another oversight in the Upjohn Analysis. Like the other problems (inflation rate low, timing of tax payments, overestimate of benefits), it further acerbates the long term "shortfalls" related to the Promise Program. Of course, the Promise supporters consider these to be just "inconsequential details."
The closer I look, the more clear this isn’t about shifting 40% of a penny sales tax for economic development, it is saddling the taxpayers of Davenport with an entitlement program that will spend $40,000,000 in the first 10 years, and grow more expensive in the next 10.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

News Conference scheduled for February 6th!

February 3, 2009
Contact: Mark Nelson, Chairman 563-340-2597 or Email opt4better@mchsi.com

Newly Formed Taxpayer Watchdog PAC to Oppose Davenport Promise Program

A news conference will be held at the Davenport Library, 321 Main Street, Davenport, IA on Friday, February 6, at 10:30am to outline the opposition to the Promise Proposal.

A non-partisan PAC, Opt4Better, has been formed to promote limited government and lower taxes in the Iowa Quad Cities. "There is a need for regular, reasoned opposition to programs expanding the scope of local government, and increasing the burden on Davenport's taxpayers," says Mark Nelson, founder of Opt4Better. The PAC will follow local political activities, and engage in issue and candidate support.

Its first project is assisting the taxpayers of Davenport in working to defeat the Promise Program, in the March 3, 2009 referendum. "This program is an unnecessary and unsupportable burden on Davenport's taxpayers," says Nelson.

As noted in the Upjohn Study, conducted on behalf of the City of Davenport, "a high level of uncertainty clouds the fiscal impact estimates of the Promise." Nelson states, "Beyond this 'uncertainty,' there are several assumptions within the report that compound the level of problems. We want the taxpayers to be fully aware of the limited benefits and substantial risks associated with approving this massive expansion of local government."

Mark Nelson was born and reared in the Quad Cities. For the past 15 years he has lived in Davenport, working as a commercial real estate appraiser. Mark currently serves as the Chair of the Davenport Park and Recreation Advisory Committee. He previously has worked on several City of Davenport task forces, including Duck Creek, Fejervary Zoo and Credit Island. He has also been active in politics, Chairing his precinct's January 2008 Republican presidential caucus, running for local office, is a past Chair of the Libertarian Party of Iowa and the former Treasurer of the Libertarian National Committee.

For additional information you may contact Opt4Better's website at Opt4better.org
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