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City strapped for $8.2M business park debt

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By Tracy Harris

With the debt repayment for Oldham Reserve looming large, La Grange Mayor Bill Lammlein has called a special city council meeting to address the situation.

Lammlein said the meeting will focus on ways the city can generate revenue to pay the $8.2 million debt.

In 2005, the city and county governments issued $10 million bonds to purchase Oldham Reserve, a 1,000-acre business park in La Grange.

The debt includes interest and payments already made.

But so far, only one company has built on the property. 

The Rawlings Group remains the only tenant, with about 700 employees and a more than 160,000-square-foot building.

Last month, Lammlein proposed a compensation tax to generate revenue but the proposal was received negatively by several city council members and residents.

The tax would have been levied on all wages paid inside city limits, generating an estimated $500,000 to $800,000 in revenue.

In August, several La Grange residents suggested raising property taxes rather than taxing people who work in city limits.

“The property owners voted in an administration who voted to gamble with the city’s money,” said Jason Kinser, a resident and business owner. “They should pay for it.”

City council members voted in August to keep current real and personal property taxes at 20 and 26.5 cents respectively, per $100 of value. 

For example, owners of a home worth $150,000 will pay about $300 in property taxes.

According to the city’s budget, that tax should bring in more than $1.2 million this year, about 32 percent of the city’s $3.8 million budget.

Other residents question why increased revenues generated by expanded alcohol sales can’t be used for the debt.

Local law requires that revenue be used only for alcohol enforcement and regulation. It does not go into the city’s general fund.

Lammlein said about $600,000 is needed annually to pay the debt service on the Oldham Reserve bond.

The county, which has a larger budget and more reserve funds, is not facing the same struggle to make bond payments.

Ideas and comments are welcome at the meeting, Lammlein said, as city council members look for funding sources.

The meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17, in the fiscal court meeting room.