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What Council Members Hope To Do With $10M

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Back in September, the federal government paid back the money that was loaned by the city of Sioux Falls to build a levee system and dam. Now, Sioux Falls City Council Members are trying to figure out what to do with nearly $10 million.

Council members said they never thought the federal government would ever repay the city. But now that they have, council members said they want it to benefit everyone that lives in Sioux Falls.

Sioux Falls City Finance Director Tracy Turbak sent a memo out to council members and Mayor Mike Huether. Turbak said he sent it out as a conversation starter, which is exactly what it has done.

Sioux Falls City Councilman Greg Jamison said, “I think this money should be used to pay off our debt. We took this money out to build those levees, so now we should pay that debt.”

That is just one of three options the memo gives council members. The problem with this option, Jamison said, is that the levees can't be paid off until 2018. Jamison said the $10 million should be used sooner to pay off other debts. Council woman Michelle Erpenbach agrees.

"This money was intended to pay off a loan, let's use it to pay off a debt," Erpenbach said.

Erpenbach said even though Sioux Falls has a strong economy, eliminating any debt would be a good idea.

"If we can avoid new payments, or if we can back off on the payments we have, that's the perfect solution," Erpenbach said.

But there's another option council members are considering. The money could be set aside in the capital reserve fund for a project. Even though Sioux Falls residents will have a chance to vote on it April, the council is discussing whether to use it for the indoor community pool at Spellerberg Park.

Councilman Kermit Staggers said if the council wants to use the money to benefit everybody that is not the way to spend it.

 "One way we can benefit all of the citizens of Sioux Falls is by not having an increase on property taxes," Staggers said.

Staggers said the $10 million could keep property taxes the same for about ten years.

 "Over the years, it (the rise) can be very devastating to people," Staggers said.

Staggers also said he would like to see the money used to help those who have lost their health care because of the Affordable Care Act.
Jamison said, "You could go down a list and see how you could directly impact the community by spending this money."

Another option would be to use the money to cover bond payments on the levee until 2019. Around $2.2 million is paid to the federal government each year using second penny sales tax. That money could then go towards other city projects or improvements.

As of right now, there is no deadline for when council members need to decide what to do with the money. They said hopefully by this summer, when they start to discuss the 2015 budget for the city, they will have a better idea of where it will be allocated.

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