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SIOUX CITY | The tax levy rate that property owners see on their annual statement for the 2018-19 fiscal year will be a lesser number than the current year.

The five members of the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors achieved their goal of ending up with a lower property tax rate for the next fiscal year that begins July 1. In approving the $54.7 million budget, the supervisors affirmed a financial plan of expenses and revenues that includes lower levies for property owners living in both town and rural areas.

Only one person from the public, Taxpayer Research Council Executive Director Taylor Goodvin, spoke on the budget. He said the supervisors had done well in the budget process since starting in late December. At that point, County Finance Director Dennis Butler had said the budget could rise by $5 million from the current $53 million budget, but a series of cuts over eight budget meetings prevented that.

"Good job with the levy. Good job, more importantly, on keeping expenses low," Goodvin said.

Butler said the levy paid by rural residents is at the lowest level in 15 years, and that paid by property owners in towns is the lowest in 14 years.

The tax rates in the current year are $7.41 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for city residents and $10.38 per $1,000 for rural residents. The rates for the 2019 fiscal year are $7.29 for city residents and $9.53 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 2019 the taxes in towns with homes assessed at a value of $100,000 are estimated at $405.35, or down $16.79 from the current amount of $422.14. In rural areas, a home with a value of $100,000 will result in $530.13 in property taxes, down by $60.68, from the $590.81 this year.

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 budget includes pay increases for county workers in the 2.5 percent to 3 percent range, whether unionized or not.

Butler said the good news includes a projection of employee health costs rising by 5 percent ultimately being cut to zero percent, given a lower trend of employee health claims.

In an interview, Butler said some transfers reduced property taxes. Those included tapping $278,000 from the county one-cent local option sales tax to fund the Economic and Community Development Department and tapping $300,000 from gaming revenues that come from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Sioux City.

The budget includes large projects in the Capital Improvement Plan, which total $1,074,153. That amount will be borrowed in the months ahead. The key pieces in the CIP include $160,000 for door replacements in the juvenile detention facility in the Trosper Hoyt Building, and also fire system updates in that building.

The original CIP was proposed at $1.7 million. Once chopped below $1.1 million, the total outstanding debt in the county will be $8.3 million. For the last several years the county has typically borrowed from $800,000 to $1.5 million for capital improvement projects.

Woodbury County borrowing is comparatively very low, sitting at about 2 percent of the maximum allowed by state law.


County and education reporter

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