SIOUX CITY | The Woodbury County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday made good on a goal of reducing the property tax levy rate for a third straight year.
The five supervisors happily brought the fiscal year 2017-18 budget discussions to a conclusion after two months, voting 5-0 on the $53 million plan after a hearing in which no one from the general public spoke. The supervisors said it is a fiscally sound practice to reduce the tax levy, something that may also keep county residents pleased.
"We are headed in the right direction," Supervisor Jeremy Taylor said.
The tax rates in the current year are $7.45 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for city residents and $10.50 per $1,000 for rural residents. The lower rates ahead for FY 2018 are $7.41 for city residents and $10.38 for rural residents.
While the county property tax levy is going down, that is no guarantee that tax bills for people will be reduced. The impact on individual properties will be based on various factors, including the assessed valuation and a state limitation on the percentage of the valuation subject to taxation, commonly known as a rollback.
Once rollback is factored in, for FY 2018 the taxes in towns with homes assessed at a value of $100,000 are estimated at $422.14, or up $7.49 from the current amount of $414.65. In rural areas, a home with a value of $100,000 will pay $590.81 in property taxes, up by $6.95, from the $583.86 this year.
The budget covers spending and revenues for the period from July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018.
Of the $53 million in approved spending, $17.1 million is directed to public safety and legal services, $8.7 million is for roads-related projects, and $5.1 million is for social and health services. Other county initiatives included smaller budgets.
The final budget contains a new borrowing of $1.2 million in the Capital Improvement Plan. The CIP was initially proposed at $7.2 million, but the supervisors cut out $6 million, to cover only three projects.
That CIP money includes $150,000 to upgrade technology at the Woodbury County Information and Communications Commission, $200,000 for restoration of courtroom windows in the Woodbury County Courthouse and $832,912 for radios to be used in the Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center.
Many decisions combined led to an erasure of an initial budget gap of $2.3 million in January. Also during the 2018 fiscal year, the county will be consolidating two departments, after a decision first made in February and affirmed in the final budget Tuesday.
The Rural Economic Development and Planning and Zoning departments will morph into what will likely be called the Community Planning and Economic Development Department. The savings could reach $75,000 in the fiscal year ahead.
P&Z Department Director John Pylelo told the supervisors the two departments do not meld well together, before they voted to proceed in February. In the current year, the departments each operate with budgets of less than $200,000, with two workers in each, a director and administrative assistant. One of the administrative assistant positions is being cut as part of the change.
Board Chairman Matthew Ung said "critical thinking" by the supervisors led to changes in longstanding county practices, making for a leaner county government and lower taxes at the same time.
"We have great things to look forward to and I am encouraged," Ung said.
The supervisors used eight lengthy meetings in January and February to work through budget particulars. Taylor noted the supervisors did "yeoman's work" in "very protracted" three-hour meetings.
Iowa counties must set budgets by March 15, but there was a delay in publishing the proposed county budget in a local newspaper. The state approved a two-week delay in the budget finalization in Woodbury County.