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SIOUX CITY -- Woodbury County officials are looking for $12.5 million to fix the big network of rural gravel roads, and could tap selected upcoming property tax revenues tied to CF Industries over the next many years.

The Woodbury County Board of Supervisors and County Engineer Mark Nahra in a Tuesday board meeting said it would cost more than $12 million to restore gravel roads to the base thickness and condition of 30 years ago. They noted that is just the estimated cost of of the gravel, and doesn't include hauling the gravel and prepping roads to handle it.

Nahra said the county spends $1 million on gravel most years, but the needs are greater.

Supervisor Jeremy Taylor recommended the supervisors pass a non-binding motion to set a goal of using future rural property tax revenues associated with CF Industries for the gravel project. That measure passed on a 4-1 vote.

Taylor's summary said $6.8 million would come to the secondary roads fund from 2020 through 2036, based on the plant's projected valuation growth, and if the county in each future year agrees to levy rural property to the the minimum level required by the state. He based that on a 1 percent annual growth projection of the CF property valuation.

In explaining the measure, Taylor said it appears to be a foregone conclusion that future county boards will meet the required complicated element involving state funding moving to the county for use in the Secondary Roads Department.

"If we don't levy the minimum, we lose dollar for dollar, from the state," Taylor said.

Before ultimately voting for the measure, Supervisor Marty Pottebaum noted Taylor did not explain that his proposal was non-binding.

"Just to clarify, this wouldn't be binding, it would be more akin to a goal," Taylor responded.

Putting the goal into action will require specific votes by the county board members as each budget is adopted every March through 2036. Pottebaum noted it is doubtful that all the current supervisors will serve that long.

"Nothing is binding, a future board could stop it," Pottebaum said.

In voting for the measure, which was neither an ordinance or resolution, Supervisor Matthew Ung said, "It is a good way to put our money where our mouth is."

In being the sole dissenting vote, Board Chairman Keith Radig said giving "verbal" assent to the proposal would be enough, without passing the motion.

CF Industries, which makes nitrogen fertilizer in a plant located south of Sioux City, in 2012 announced one of the largest capital investments in Iowa history at the time. A 2014 draft report projected the CF expansion would generate $130 million in property taxes over 20 years in Woodbury County.

In October 2015, the supervisors in a 3-2 vote passed a resolution to commit half of the new revenue from the CF Industries expansion for property tax relief. That was also non-binding resolution.

That measure also called for the county to send taxpayers a statement each year saying whether half of the money was used to lower the levy rate, offset mandated costs without increasing the levy or add to reserves.

Taylor noted that none of that larger pool of $130 million coming from CF was part of his proposal.

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County & Education Reporter

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