SIOUX CITY | The Woodbury County Courthouse will be more secure, sheriff's deputies will be patrolling in six new vehicles and a modernized road to Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center will be paved.

And property owners will see the largest increase in property tax levy rates in the last five years.

They're all pieces of a $51 million county budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The County Board adopted the spending plan Tuesday on a 4-1 vote, with Supervisor David Tripp dissenting.

Tripp said the board had not pared expenses enough during the two-month budget review.

"This board needs to do a better job of cutting some services," Tripp said.

No one from the audience objected during Tuesday's hearing, the final step in the budget process.

Sheriff Dave Drew said the $250,000 courthouse security plan is overdue because people are at risk of attack in the building, where some contentious court cases are held. He said the security plan, which will include personnel and technology advances, should be in place in a few months.

"We need to really step up," Drew said. "This day and age, it is long overdue."

Paving at the nature center will cost $300,000.

The county will collect $31.5 million in property taxes next year, $1.6 million more than this year. Other revenues come from the county's local option sales tax, fees and other sources.

The tax increase means city residents with homes having an assessed value of $100,000 will pay $32 more for the year.

The current levy rate for city property is $7.40 per $1,000 in assessed property value. Rural residents pay $11.05 per $1,000 into the Rural Basic Fund.

The new levy rates are $7.76 per $1,000 for city residents and $11.42 for rural residents. Those amounts were slightly reduced Tuesday from a previous proposal, after the board passed a plan to freeze wages for the county's nine elected officials.

County Treasurer Mike Clayton told the board he didn't want a salary bump in a fiscal year with rising taxes. The board then voted 5-0 to hold pay at current levels for themselves and the county treasurer, sheriff, attorney and auditor.

However, many union and nonunion departmental employees will receive raises of about 2 percent.

Board Chairman George Boykin, of Sioux City, said the budget plan didn't result in any employee cuts or crimping of needed departmental services.

"We have not had to lay off (workers) or reduce services in this county," Boykin said.

Board member Larry Clausen, of Sioux City, said he hadn't heard any complaints about the budget from residents. "They know in the past we've held the line and even decreased budgets," Clausen said.

James Van Bruggen, executive director of the Taxpayers Research Council, didn't speak against the tax increase but criticized the longstanding county budgeting process. He said the practice of going line by line through proposed departmental spending has some benefits but should be replaced by a more modern, strategic system with goals and benchmarks for departments to reach.

Van Bruggen said the process should be more than just matching expenses to revenues. He said the county does too much one-year budgeting without a bigger-picture view on how money should be spent on projects and aging buildings.

"We don't know what the goals are. ... We don't know what's coming down in the future," he said.

Board members did not respond to his comments.


County and education reporter

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