1. Calls for reform on Woodbury County Board

Woodbury County reforms 

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal file

SIOUX CITY | County departments won’t be able to fulfill duties in a timely manner and likely will see overtime costs increase. That’s the message department heads are sending as the Woodbury County Board continues to hold firm on the principle that no new employees will be hired unless a non-property tax funding source can be found.

In continuing budget discussions for fiscal year 2014-15, the County Board on Tuesday declined to hire a position sought by Emergency/Disaster Services Director Gary Brown. That pared away $77,743 in proposed spending, and follows last week's action in which the board declined to approve five new positions in the jail.

The emergency management specialist was sought to implement new federal and state requirements for emergency response planning, including reaching non-English speakers, and on hazard mitigation, Brown said Tuesday afternoon.

"We just may not end up getting to that. There are only so many hours in the day.”

County Chairman George Boykin, of Sioux City, said the board is trying to prevent a property tax increase in the fiscal year beginning July 1, so new hires are being nixed. Department heads were told about the freeze in 2013 when they began preparing their budgets.

"We understand where the budget is,” Brown said Tuesday. “We are not going to whine about it."

Sheriff Dave Drew on Jan. 14 asked for money to hire two jailers and three nurses for the jail in the Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center, at 407 Seventh St. The decision not to hire those positions saved $326,000.

Drew said that paring decision will mean he'll end up spending more on overtime to keep the jail sufficiently staffed.

On Tuesday, the board cut $10,000 out of the proposed $1.48 million Auditor budget, $6,500 out of the $218,000 Human Resources Department budget and $1,700 from the $178,000 Planning and Zoning Department budget. They made no cuts to the $182,000 Rural Economic Development Department proposal.

The County Board on Jan. 7 began the process of setting the 2014-15 fiscal year budget. With the expenses initially submitted by department directors, the proposed budget has $3.5 million more in expense than revenue.

The board will take four weeks to complete initial reviews of proposed departmental spending. That process will wrap up on Jan. 28. Then the final budget blueprint will be finalized in February meetings.

The budget covering the period from July 1 through June 30, 2015 must be set by March 15.

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