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Mayor Expresses Disappointment Over Casino Assessment

By Staff | Feb 14, 2008

Emmetsburg Mayor John Schad addressed members of Emmetsburg City Council at their meeting Monday, Feb. 11, concerning the assessment of Wild Rose Casino & Resort.

“City Administrator John Bird, in his report, indicated that we had disappointing news from Wild Rose Casino,” said Schad. “The news, in essence, is that Wild Rose is dropping plans for all expansion beyond the casino in Emmetsburg. We are losing the new country club building, and the country club itself may be up for sale. We are no longer going to have a marina selling gasoline at the lakeside for boaters. We are no longer going to have condominiums on the property owned by Wild Rose on the South side of the lake.”

Schad stated that executives of the casino had communicated by e-mail to John Bird and to himself saying “in essence that they would take a hard look at any future investments as long as the county assessor, Lois Naig, continued with the same attitude and the same course of action.”

Schad spoke with Lois Naig and read her the pertinent parts of the e-mails. He pointed out the unfairness of taxing the casino at nearly 100-percent of the cost of construction, when the law provides for buildings to be assessed at fair market value, what a willing buyer would pay a willing seller in an arms length transaction.

“In other words, the fact that the building is used as a casino is not to be taken into consideration,” said Schad. “It should be evaluated as an empty building waiting for a buyer.”

Schad pointed out that County Assessor Lois Naig has assessed the casino at almost 21 million dollars. In contrast, Northwood, which grosses at least four times the revenue of Wild Rose and has at least four times the floor space, cost 29 million dollars to build and is assessed at about 15 million.

Mayor Schad encouraged members of the council to attend a meeting of the Palo Alto County Conference Board Tuesday, Feb. 12.

“The conference board appoints the assessor and the board of review as their terms expire,” Schad explained. The board consists of all the mayors in the county, a representative from each school district with a high school, and the board of supervisors.

Schad requested that Lois Naig put this issue of the Wild Rose assessment on the agenda.

“This issue could easily be the most important single action taken by the city this year,” Schad said.

Schad had prepared a spreadsheet which indicated revenues received last year from the casino. Total gaming revenue was $26,038,233; .5-percent to the city, $130,191.17; .5-percent to the county, $130,191.17; and 6-percent to the non-profit board, $1,562,293.98. Total revenues from gaming, $1,822,676.31; Hotel-Motel Tax paid by Wild Rose, over $49,000. Salaries paid to Palo Atlo County employees by Wild Rose were not included in the grand total, which Schad calculated at $1,871,676.31.

The spreadsheet also listed the valuation set by the assessor at $20,884,000; total anticipated revenue at 40.72 at this assessment level, $850,396.48. Valuation set by Wild Rose, $13,800,000; total anticipated value at 40.72 at the reduced level, $561,936. Differential between the two, $288,460.48; different in total revenue in percent between the assessments, 15-percent.

Schad noted, $40.70 is the total tax paid per 1000 assessed valuation in Emmetsburg. It will vary by city throughout the county.

“The entire flap about the assessments from the level proposed by the assessor to the level agreed to by the casino, only makes a difference of 15-percent. For that little bit of revenue, we are endangering the mother ship that has done so much for our county,” said Schad.

Responding to Schad’s comments, Councilman Brian Campbell said, “It seems short sighted. What they planned to do would more than offset that.”

“My fear is that they (Wild Rose) can go to 3-percent rather than the 6-percent they are giving to the non-profit.”

Several council members expressed interest in attending the Tuesday meeting of the Conference Board. Following Open Meetings requirements, the city posted a city council meeting since a quorum could be attending the Tuesday afternoon meeting of the Conference Board.