Before Prior Lake City Council members voted to support the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community’s latest trust-land request in September, Mayor Jack Haugen gave an impassioned speech about the benefits of tribal contributions vs. the potential loss in tax revenue.
Addressing the tribe’s request to place 78 acres of land in Prior Lake into trust status, Haugen challenged Scott County commissioners who opposed the request to consider the benefits of $21.5 million in tribal contributions to area infrastructure and programs over the last four years. “How does that compare to $4,000 in lost tax revenue? Is this truly a tax issue, or is it something else?” Haugen said.
The estimated amount of annual property taxes levied on the property by the city is $4,019. The tribe plans to use part of the property to build a new tribal government center with a health clinic. Putting land into trust takes it off the tax rolls and removes it from local, non-tribal government control. About one-third of the property – located between Mystic Lake Casino and the current tribal government center – is wetland and cannot be built upon.
The reservation land already is used by the tribe, as a parking lot for tribal government workers and employees of the casino. Council members unanimously approved the drafting of a letter to the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, supporting the trust application. The bureau, part of the Department of the Interior, makes decisions on trust-land issues, but it invites cities and the county to comment on the proposals. Haugen said he wanted to get across the message that the tribe’s contributions – to area road improvements, local parks and sheets of ice for hockey practices – have far more value to the community than what little tax revenue might come from tribal land not placed into trust.
County Commissioners who voted in favor of the current application on Aug. 25 said this request is much different than the controversial application approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 2007. That application placed 752 acres of land into trust, affecting 106 acres in Prior Lake and 646 acres in Shakopee. Citing the tribe’s recent help on projects and the uniqueness of the parcel in question, the County Board, on a 3-2 vote, agreed to send a letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs supporting the current request. Commissioners Barbara Marschall of Prior Lake and Tom Wolf of Savage voted against the latest request, as they have against previous applications, saying their decision was based on the property-tax impact.