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Govt-and-politics
Property valuations could go up
After tweaks, Sioux City budget to bring tax decrease to residents

SIOUX CITY | Homeowners would see the city's share of their property tax bill drop by about .6 percent in the upcoming budget year, according to a series of tweaks the Sioux City Council made to its budget Wednesday.

The changes mean an owner of a $100,000 home would see a $5 decrease in property taxes from the previous year.  

The City Council's changes followed a request to staff earlier this month from Mayor Bob Scott to look for ways to increase revenue and reduce expenses to avoid a 1 percent increase to property taxpayers. 

When first proposed earlier this year, the city's budget would have raised taxes on homeowners from $821 to $829 per $100,000 of valuation, an increase of $8. Under Wednesday's updated budget, a homeowner would pay $816 per $100,000 of valuation, a decrease of $5 or .6 percent.

Commercial property will still see an increase of $27 per $100,000 of valuation, but the amount is down from the $51 per $100,000 that was originally proposed. 

Ian Richardson / Provided 

Scott

"I think the staff did a good job of recognizing that there were some areas (to change)," Scott said after Wednesday morning's meeting. "When you start out at $8 and go to a $5 decrease, that's $13. So I'm pleased that we've got to where we got today." 

Approved changes include savings in the transit, finance, airport, art center and parks and recreation budgets, and $25,000 in new revenue through raised fees for inspection services.

The city additionally learned that its tax base was approximately $50,000 higher than previously reported by the county. 

"After we put the budget together, the county notified us that they had an error in the calculation of the tax base, and they have increased our tax base," city finance director Donna Forker told the council. 

Sioux City is also factoring in revenue from the $1.4 million sale of a portion of the Sioux City Public Museum to the Sioux City Community School District for use of specialty courses, which had not yet been included in the budget proposal. 

After making those changes, Sioux City's tax levy is still rising -- from $15.77 to $16.07 -- but residents will pay a lower proportional amount due to a scheduled 1.32 percent decrease in the percentage of assessed residential valuation subject to taxation under a state-imposed formula known as a "rollback."

Sioux City is one of a handful of entities whose tax levies make up the overall property tax bill, which will be due in two equal installments, Sept. 1 and March 1. Other local taxing bodies include the Sioux City School District, Woodbury County and Western Iowa Tech Community College. 

While city residential taxes are going down, some residential property owners may still notice larger totals on their bills due to an increased valuation of their homes. The Sioux City Assessor's Office last year raised property values on many dwellings, estimating an 11 percent increase in valuation for residential property.

Wednesday's study session was the last of four special meetings held at the outset of 2018 to address the upcoming budget. The City Council will take a final vote on the budget March 5. The new fiscal year begins July 1. 


Local
Another round of snow, ice expected in area; more snow Saturday

SIOUX CITY |  Siouxlanders could once again be doing their own Olympic ice skating routines while trying to walk outdoors Thursday.

After the area weathered a round of ice and snow Monday and Tuesday, another system including snow and ice could cause travel headaches for much of the region by Thursday afternoon and into the evening.

"Certainly the evening commute is going to be less than ideal," said Brad Temeyer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls.

Siouxland is under a Winter Weather Advisory from 6 a.m. to midnight Thursday. Temeyer said the reason for the advisory isn't snow -- about 2 inches total is expected in the Sioux City area -- but the potential for freezing drizzle in the early afternoon between snowfalls.

"It looks pretty likely at this point," Temeyer said Wednesday evening. "That freezing drizzle could slicken things up quite a bit."

Snow was expected to enter the Sioux City area around daybreak. Temeyer said the area could receive up to an inch before the snow turns over to freezing drizzle around noon. With high temperatures hovering in the upper 20s, the drizzle could fall for a couple hours before turning back to snow in the afternoon. Another inch of snow could fall through the afternoon into the evening.

Areas around Storm Lake and Spencer could see more ice and less snow, Temeyer said.

Winds are forecast to blow at 5-10 mph, not strong enough to cause concerns about blowing snow and poor visibility for motorists.

"That's one plus of this system is you're not looking at significant winds," Temeyer said.

Siouxlanders will get a one-day break before a system packing the potential for heavy snow enters the area Saturday. Snow is forecast to begin falling in the morning and last throughout the day before ending in the evening.

Temeyer said a band of heavy snow of more than 4 inches is expected, but forecast models have not yet indicated where that band of snow may fall.

"Saturday certainly looks tricky at this point," Temeyer said. "There is certainly a possibility for a heavy band of snow, the question is where."

Winter weather isn't going away anytime soon, he said. Another chance of precipitation arrives in Siouxland Tuesday night.

"It's a very active period. We're looking at the potential for systems coming through every couple of days," Temeyer said.


Ian Richardson / Provided 

Scott


State-and-regional
Democrats decry “fast-track” GOP tax plan

DES MOINES | Democrats on the Senate Ways and Means Committee expressed concern Wednesday that majority Republicans were trying to “fast-track” a $1 billion tax cut and tax code rewrite without proper documentation of the legislation’s fiscal impact or adequate time for Iowans to weigh in on the proposal.

“I hope we don’t do a D.C.-style tax bill here in the Iowa Senate,” said Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, in noting that many members of Congress had not read the federal tax-cut legislation before it was approved and signed into law by President Donald Trump last December. “We have words but not numbers,” he noted.

The committee met less than seven hours after majority GOP senators unveiled a sweeping rewrite of the state tax code that would cut individual and corporate income tax rates more than $1 billion a year beginning in 2019, reduce the number of tax brackets and expand the sales tax base by capturing more online transactions.

Democrats on the committee requested a fiscal analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency that would go beyond the GOP “talking points” to be provided before a subcommittee is slated to discuss Senate Study Bill 3179 at 8 a.m. Thursday and the full committee is slated to vote on the 130-page package six hours later.

Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, chairman of the Senate’s tax-writing panel, said no fiscal support documents were available for review but told senators and others in attendance “we’re working on it” in hopes of having details of the estimated financial impact soon.

Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, committee ranking member, said she had hoped there would be multiple subcommittee meetings on a bill of this magnitude, while Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, called it irresponsible for Republicans to be moving a bill at such speed that “effectively will be signing the death warrant for public education” by taking $1 billion out of the state revenue stream.