September 5, 2017 - 6:07 pm - Posted in News

Osceola County, Iowa — Both the plaintiffs and the defendants are still waiting on a ruling from a judge in the case of a group of taxpayers versus the City of Harris and Osceola County.

A telephone hearing took place last month in the case, which was in regard to the Osceola County Board of Supervisors establishment of a TIF District to provide funds to be used to help finance infrastructure in the City of Harris.

In March 2015, Harris was under an administrative order from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to update its lagoon, but the city lacked the debt capacity to take on the improvements. As a result, on March 10, 2015, the city sent a letter to the Osceola County Board of Supervisors “asking for help with possibly doing a TIF on the windmills [wind turbines] for infrastructure within the City.” Within a couple of weeks, at a meeting of the board, the Harris mayor “asked that the supervisors consider establishing an urban renewal area including the turbines and city of Harris to help fund needed projects.”

In October 2015, the Board of Supervisors held a Public Hearing on a resolution to establish an urban renewal area, and approve the urban renewal plan and project for the area.  The newly-created TIF area was set to include the city of Harris, as well as an area of land upon which a wind farm had been constructed.

The plaintiffs in the case are resident taxpayers of Osceola County and of the Harris-Lake Park School District. They filed a petition for writ of certiorari and declaratory judgment challenging the resolution and the ordinance passed by or involving Osceola County and the City of Harris. In conjunction, the resolution and ordinance established an urban renewal area and an urban renewal plan and divided the tax revenue levied on that area as tax increment financing to fund the plan. The plaintiffs challenged the Supervisors’ actions, claiming they would be harmed as taxpayers.

Osceola County and the City of Harris filed a motion for summary judgment, and the district court granted it, finding the taxpayers lacked standing to challenge the resolution and their claims involving the ordinance were untimely. The taxpayers’ petition was dismissed. On appeal, the taxpayers challenged the district court’s ruling and maintained the merits of their motion for summary judgment should have been granted instead.

In their review of the case, while the Iowa Court of Appeals upheld the District Court ruling that the taxpayers’ claims were, in fact, untimely, since they were filed prior to the enactment of the ordinance they challenged; the Appeals Court did reverse the lower court’s ruling, saying that the taxpayers DID, in fact, have standing to pursue the case.

The Court of Appeals remanded the case back to District Court for further proceedings.

During last month’s telephonic hearing, the taxpayer group pressed for their motion for summary judgment. The judge has yet to rule.

According to an attorney for the plaintiffs, there are two options. The judge could approve the motion for summary judgment, with the result being an immediate ruling by the judge; or the judge could deny it, with the result being that the case goes to another trial in district court. The attorney says it is unknown when the judge will issue a ruling.

The complete ruling from the Iowa Court of Appeals can be seen by CLICKING HERE.

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