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SIOUX CITY |  Several weeks of revenue and spending deliberations remain, but the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors leader is optimistic they can pass a budget for fiscal year 2018-19 with a reduced property tax levy.

"We are very, very likely to be able to drop the levy," Board Chairman Rocky De Witt said.

De Witt addressed the budget in an interview Tuesday after a meeting in which the supervisors made scant cuts to the budget proposed by County Sheriff Dave Drew.

The levies in the current $53 million budget, which runs through June 30, are $7.41 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for city residents and $10.38 for rural residents.

In a recap of where tax levies stood through Jan. 16 deliberations, County Finance Director Dennis Butler on Tuesday shared the rates were $7.51 for city residents and $10.04 for rural residents.

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.

After three weeks of poring over some smaller department proposals prior to the Tuesday meeting, about $383,000 in expenses had been cut. They reviewed most of Drew's office divisions, but tabled addressing the $6.6 million portion of the proposal for operating the jail in the Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center.

The supervisors will discuss departmental budgets in their regular Tuesday meetings for three more meetings to Feb. 13.  If enough cuts are not found by then, additional steps to find other revenues, tap reserves or cut expenses more deeply could be pursued on Feb. 20.

County borrowing discussion 

Additionally, Butler summarized borrowing that is proposed for the FY 2019 budget. For the last several years the county has typically borrowed from $800,000 to $1.5 million annually to fund larger expenditures in a Capital Improvement Plan, or CIP.

Butler said the proposed borrowing for 2019 is estimated at $1.7 million, which would bring the total combined county debt to $8.9 million. The county projects for next year that will be included in that $1.7 million amount will be set by February.

The current outstanding debt, usually set with five-to-10 year paybacks in each annual loan, was taken out in the years from 2010 to 2017.

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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