SIOUX CITY | A new budget-setting season is at hand, but the goal remains the same: No increase in the tax levy for Woodbury County property owners.

The Woodbury County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday made no cuts in a first look at proposed department budgets for fiscal year 2018-19, but Board Chairman Matthew Ung said more challenging deliberations lie ahead in January.

In a post-meeting interview, Ung said he's proud the county property tax rate has dropped three years in a row, up through the current year that runs through June 30, 2018.

"The goal is to reduce the tax rates for a fourth year," Ung said.

Prior to the financial plan that passed in March 2015, the county had not passed a budget with a lower property tax rate for at least 15 years.

The current budget is about $53 million. The next budget will run from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019. All Iowa counties must set their yearly financial plans by March 15.

Ung said the projected new cost increases sought by county departments run $2 million above current year spending. He said better financial news is present with an estimated $2 million in new revenues for FY 2019, due to the county's pleasing growth in assessed valuation.

"Spending-wise, it is going to be the most challenging budget I've seen, but it is going to be offset by a huge increase in valuations," said Ung, who is nearing his fourth year on the county board.

County Finance Director Dennis Butler spoke similarly to Ung in assessing how the budget talks might go.

"Their intent is to keep the (property tax) levy the same or drop it," Butler said.

Ung said the timeline looks to be similar to most years. The supervisors will dive into the budget at their regular Tuesday meetings through January and into February.  If enough cuts are not found by then, additional steps to find other revenues, tap reserves or cut expenses more deeply could be pursued in February.

A projection of the FY 2019 property tax levy will be aired as meetings progress in January.

The current levies in the $53 million budget are $7.41 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for city residents and $10.38 for rural residents. The levies for the prior 2016-17 year were $7.45 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for city residents and $10.50 for rural residents.

On Tuesday, the supervisors made no cuts as they reviewed the $1.6 million county treasurer budget, their own board office budget of $374,128 and the $274,004 human resources department budget.

"The treasurer (Michael Clayton) runs a continually lean office," Ung said.

Ung noted that it was helpful to get a jump on the budget work by tackling the task in December.

"We picked some of the easier ones to get through," he said.

There will be no supervisors meeting on Dec. 26. They will return to budget deliberations when Tuesday meetings resume Jan. 2.

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County and education reporter

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