SIOUX CITY -- In order to reduce spending from property taxes to the level of the current year, the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors came into its Tuesday meeting looking to fix a budget gap of $550,000 for the 2019-20 fiscal year.
Instead, the supervisors went further, making changes amounting to $650,000.
With those combined moves of reducing proposed expenses and finding some more revenue, it is possible the county property tax levy for next year could be going down. That levy figure will be aired at the next supervisors meeting on Feb. 19, when they expect to last tinker with the financial plan that began two months ago at $56.9 million.
Over seven meetings since the beginning of January, the supervisors have worked through issues related to the county budget that was initially proposed at $2.3 million more than the current year. All that time, they have aimed to reduce the property tax rate, as has been done for four consecutive years.
Going into the Tuesday meeting, county Finance Director Dennis Butler's projection showed the property tax rates at $7.34 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for city residents and $9.77 per $1,000 for rural residents. The tax rates in the current year are $7.29 per $1,000 for city residents and $9.53 per $1,000 for rural residents.
In making the Tuesday budget moves totaling $650,163, a big piece involved adding only one of three proposed new deputy positions in the Sheriff's Office, at a savings of $169,486. Sheriff Dave Drew said he's wanted more deputies for six years, as law enforcement tasks increase and rural areas continue to have large swaths to cover with just a few on-duty deputies.
Drew said the current 28 deputies who handle patrol work aren't enough.
"My guys work their tails off ... We are very stretched," Drew said.
County Supervisor Marty Pottebaum added, "It is not getting any safer out there."
Supervisor Jeremy Taylor said he could only support one new deputy, not three, although other deputies could be considered in upcoming years.
The final vote on the measure to add only one deputy passed 4-1, with board chairman Keith Radig saying he couldn't support any new personnel. All three deputies would have cost $254,000, with salaries and benefits.
"I'm one to hold the line on where we are staffing-wise," Radig said.
Drew responded, "Maybe this is a hard word for you, but maybe you've got to raise taxes ... I respect your opinion."
Some other cuts set Tuesday included $19,839 for part-time personnel in the emergency services department, $140,298 to reduce the cash reserve level of the district health department and $250,000 to reduce the cash reserve level in the Debt Service Fund.
One revenue change to drop the take in property taxes involved moving $59,800 from county gambling revenues into the General Fund.
The proposed budget covers the period from July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020.
Also in the meeting, the supervisors reviewed a Capital Improvement Program proposal for $1.1 million to fund larger expenditures. The main pieces include $475,000 for an asphalt resurfacing of roads in Little Sioux Park near Correctionville and $220,000 for a truck for the Emergency Services Department.
One other notable CIP piece would pay an estimated $60,178 for security cameras to be placed on the exterior of the Woodbury County Courthouse, plus cameras in the nearby downtown Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center and Trosper-Hoyt Building.
For the last several years the county has typically borrowed from $800,000 to $1.5 million annually to a Capital Improvement Program. The current budget includes a CIP of $1,074,153.