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Govt-and-politics
Woodbury County budget could grow by $5 million in 2018-19

SIOUX CITY | The budget to operate Woodbury County government departments next year could rise by about $5 million from the $53 million financial plan being used in fiscal year 2017-18.

Woodbury County Finance Director Dennis Butler told the County Board of Supervisors in a Tuesday meeting the substantial budget bump could come in part because of planned employee wages and benefits increases and the potential $2.8 million in a five-year large projects, or Capital Improvements Program, proposal.

"There are legitimate reasons why it is going up," Butler said, while adding that potential cuts to the budget proposal by March could knock down the increase.

"It must be remembered that this is our starting point in balancing the budget...When all is said and done, the Board of Supervisors will have to make some difficult decisions," Butler wrote in a memo.

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.

The fiscal year 2019 budget proposal also includes a 5 percent increase in health costs for county employees. Butler mentioned other considerable cost spikes proposed at $482,445 in the sheriff's office for added jail staff and $322,192 for county parks.

Some of the cost-cutting has already been begun. During the meeting, the supervisors voted to slash two proposed new county parks positions, saving $155,568 in expenses.

The supervisors will discuss departmental budgets in 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 late February.

Board Chairman Rocky De Witt and Supervisor Matthew Ung said they hope to set another budget with a lessened property tax levy.

The county property tax rate has dropped three years in a row, up through the current year that runs through June 30, 2018. 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.

A projection of the FY 2019 property tax levy will be aired as meetings progress, likely either in the Jan. 9 or 16 sessions.

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.


Govt-and-politics
Sioux City breaks new housing record for third straight year

SIOUX CITY | Residential housing in Sioux City continued to grow at a record-setting clip in 2017, as the city for a third straight year set a new high in the number of housing permits issued.

Housing data shared by the city Tuesday shows developers added 274 units last year, breaking the previous record of 241 units set in 2016

City officials attributed the continued growth to private-public partnerships and a renewed interest in filling in areas within the city. The city has also seen an increased trend in construction of duplexes, townhouses and urban condo developments over the past few years. 

Provided 

Sioux City issued a record 274 permits for housing units in 2017, breaking the previous record of 241 set in 2016. The city credited projects such as Virginia Square and the Bekins building redevelopment for this year's high growth. 

Of the 274 permits issued for units, 182 were multi-family units and 24 were condos. The projects -- many of which are still under construction -- include the development of the former Bekins building into 70 loft-style apartments, the revitalization of former industrial buildings along Virginia Street by Ho-Chunk Inc. into mixed-use space known as Virginia Square, and re-use of former school buildings at Whittier Elementary and the Central High School annex

City staff expect the trend to continue in future years with additional construction in the Whispering Creek and Eagle Ridge housing developments, as well as renovations of the former Everett School Building, Hatch Furniture Building, Commerce Building and former Methodist Hospital

Sioux City in 2016 had broken the previous record of 205 set in 2015. Prior to that, the city had only eclipsed the 150-unit mark once in the preceding decade. 


Butler