SIOUX CITY | Woodbury County is lifting a ban on budget increase requests by county department heads. The budget process starts this month.

The County Board previously froze operating levels and made supervisors trim costs to meet the level.

This year, department heads have been asked to submit proposals while keeping in mind that any increase in funding requests may require the County Board to raise property taxes to cover costs.

Finance Director Dennis Butler said the message is, "money is tight, but put in what you really need to run your department."

Departments will provide proposals by the end of the month. County Board members will approve or hack away at the proposals in January and February. The deadline for the final budget is March 15.

Last budget cycle, the funding requests were about $2.3 million more than revenues, which resulted in the largest property tax increase in five years. For city residents, it worked out to an increase of $37 in annual taxes per $100,000 in property value. The budget totaled about $51 million.

Jackie Smith, of Sioux City, said some departments likely will want to increase costs this year. The property tax levy has been reduced by 38 cents per $1,000 over the last eight years combined.

Butler said it will be hard to contain costs, since the county has committed to hiring more nurses for the jail. Additionally, the county will begin a second year with a courthouse security plan that could cost $170,000 again.

He said one benefit is that the county can cut the sizable cost of $136,000, since there won't be a general election in 2015-16.

Board member Matthew Ung, of Sioux City, will be working through his first budget process, after being elected last month. He repeated his campaign vow to hold firmly against any tax increase. He also wanted department heads to have been presented a no-growth directive.

"I do not plan to vote for any budget that has a tax increase," Ung said.

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County and education reporter

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