Opinion: County commissioners stood up for taxpayers, shareholders
I would like to make some comments following the story of the County Commission meeting and the Red Trail Energy stock that we as citizens of Stark County own.
First, while the county did not write out a check to acquire the stock, there was a fair market exchange. The deal that got brokered resulted in Stark County giving Red Trail a tax abatement over five years that amounted to nearly $940,000. That is money that cost every taxpayer in Stark County in that we made that up in order for the county to operate. At the meeting the State of ND via Bonnie Malo does not tell us what dollars did the State actually grant Red Trail and for what purpose?
Second, in recent years Red Trail has paid dividends. Of that money almost all went to the State and I was told none went to Roosevelt Custer. As things are right now, the State stands to get more dollars with future dividends. The question comes to mind: Why does the State want these shares sold if they are going to continue getting almost the entire dividend.
Meanwhile Stark County has gotten very little and they are the owners of record of the shares in question. They [we] gave up $940,000 in property tax revenue. Up to now, Stark County has been allowed to keep only $25,000 of the dividends paid each year. At that rate it will take 37 years for Stark County to get $940,000; that is if dividends are paid each year. So far that has not happened.
Where is the justice in "selling" these shares and all the money going to the State? Stark County is the owner and has an invested interest.
And furthermore, what is really happening by retiring the shares owned by Stark County? This all seems to be coming about because the Red Trail Board issued two million shares to someone in exchange for the tract of land east of the ethanol plant. The Board is now saying they want to maintain the same number of shares as before and not dilute the distribution of dividends. There is much more involved than dilution. This deal and another one that they have already done involving a million shares results in a redistribution of voting power. I think they want to take away two million votes that they do not control in exchange for two million that they can control or know will support them on certain matters.
I am a shareholder. In the past the Red Trail Board attempted to reclassify shares in such a manner that all the "small" investors who invested $10,000 each will be stripped of nearly all their voting rights, and investors of $50,000 and less would loss many of their voting rights as well. Thus their shares will ultimately have less value. The "plan" allowed, though they denied that they would do it, the plan further allowed that future dividends could be apportioned not by numbers of shares, but be proportioned by the value of the shares. That would further take away from those many "small" investors. Since that time the Board has continued to study implementing this or a similar plan if they can get enough votes. At some cost and loss, I and several other investors have taken steps to protect our shares in the event of this proposed reclassification, but feel that this plan is not fair or just for the unfavorably affected investors.
Kudos to the Commissioners for standing up for the citizens, taxpayers, and investors of Stark County.