Facing a delinquent tax bill of almost $86,000, the Iowa-based company managing the Baraboo college student dormitories is working to secure financing to pay its debts, according to a Sauk County attorney.
Assistant Corporation Counsel Debra O’Rourke said Pat Sherman of Bluffstone LLC told her the company needs new appraisals that will take roughly four to six weeks. In the future, he plans to escrow — meaning set aside extra money on a regular basis — for taxes, she said.
Sherman was slated to speak at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Baraboo Sauk County Campus Commission meeting Thursday but had to cancel due to a personal emergency, O’Rourke told the commission.
Bluffstone of Davenport, Iowa, now owes the city of Baraboo about $85,800 in personal property taxes for 2017 and 2018 plus interest and penalties for each month, said Baraboo Finance Director Cynthia Haggard. The company built The Villas at Baraboo on the city’s UW campus after entering into an agreement with local government and university officials in February 2014.
The commission gave Bluffstone more time to work toward a solution by not taking action Thursday. Chairman Phil Wedekind said the agreement otherwise has worked well, and he would be satisfied if the company escrows and pays its taxes.
While commission members have said they don’t want to manage dorms, O’Rourke encouraged them to consider what happens if Bluffstone’s financing doesn’t work out.
“I think it’s probably wise to prepare in case their financing doesn’t go through and you’ll have some decisions to make,” she said.
She already has communicated with Sherman that the body might explore its options — which could include taking over management of the dorms — if Buffstone continues to default on its lease, but City Administrator Ed Geick indicated he favored more communication.
“They’re in a bit of a mess, so they need to find a way out of this somehow,” Geick said. “I don’t know what the solution is, but if people aren’t talking, then nothing’s going to happen.”
Baraboo Campus Dean Ed Janairo contacted UW-Platteville administrators for assistance with the situation because the other campus has more experience with student housing management. They are open to exploring options with the commission, Janairo said, but need more information about the situation. He noted the commission hadn’t directed him to ask any specific questions of Platteville staff at the last meeting, when members directed him to reach out.
Rose Smyrski, UW-Platteville vice chancellor for university relations, who attended the meeting Thursday, echoed Janairo.
“This is a partnership, so we are interested in exploring if that’s something that you would like us to do, but as (Janairo) indicated, we would probably need a little bit — a better sense of what the picture was and what was the situation historically of the move toward this,” Smyrski said.
Haggard added that Platteville has been “extremely supportive” by offering management assistance and training.
“And I love the support,” she said.