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Supervisors Complete Budget Process With Decreased Levy

By Staff | Feb 19, 2008

The final calculations have been made and the funding requests have been examined and pared to the minimums by the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors as they completed work on the fiscal year 2008-2009 budgets for the county. But the biggest news of the budget for next year is the fact that the actual tax levy will seed a slight decrease.

At the conclusion of the weekly board meeting on Feb. 12, the supervisors got the final update on the budget calculations from Robin Jamison of the Palo Alto County Auditor’s Office. According to the budget figures, the levy rate for the upcoming fiscal year will be 11.84002, compared with the current fiscal year levy rate of 11.85898, a decrease of .01896.

“It works out that we are decreasing the general basic levy by 0.75 and the general supplemental levy by 0.75,” Jamison explained. “Because the Code of Iowa only allows certain expenditures from the general supplemental fund, we have moved all expenses possible from the general basic fund to the general supplemental fund.”

“The reduction is just about going to equal the bonding amount,” noted Auditor Gary Leonard.

“But, we’ve got it covered,” observed Supervisor Jerry Hofstad. “We told the taxpayers we’d try and lower taxes and we’ve been able to do our best.”

“It’s a reduction in taxes and that should be good news for the taxpayers, “ agreed Supervisor Keith Wirtz.

Officially, the county is exceeding the levy maximum for the General Basic Fund, but under the Iowa Code, it is allowable to exceed the levy in order to continue a program “which provides substantial benefit to county residents.”

Under the Iowa Code, the maximum levy rate is 3.50000 per $1,000 of Taxable Value. Palo Alto County will levy 3.75000 per $1,000 of Taxable Valuation. By exceeding the levy rate, the county will generate an additional $120,809 for the General Basic Fund.

According to Jamison, a reduced or unusually low growth rate in the property tax base of the county and unusual need for additional monies were the reason for exceeding the levy cap.

A public hearing on the fiscal year 2008-2009 budget is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 11,in the supervisors board room of the Palo Alto County Courthouse.

In other business, the supervisors acknowledged payment from the Iowa Department of Transportation for use of Airport Road around the city of Emmetsburg during a period when the ICE railroad crossing of Broadway (Highway Four) was being rebuilt late last summer.

“The DOT makes these payments, they’re certainly not very much money, but they do give you something for using the county roads for detours,” explained County Engineer Joel Fantz. “This payment is for $662.59, and I recommend you r acknowledgement and acceptance of the payment.”

Board members held a brief discussion with Fantz regarding working hours of the Secondary Road Department employees. Supervisor Ed Noonan commented he would like to see the workers begin their day at 6:30 a.m. the year around. Supervisor Ron Graettinger noted that there were many workers who would oppose that idea.

“I know the guys in West Bend and Mallard are out at 6:30 in the winter,” added Wirtz.

“The guys in my area are out by 6:30 or 7,” Graettinger said.

“I think we could make it clear that if it snows, they need to get out early and get the roads cleared,” Wirtz said.

“I think its more important to get the roads cleared in the mornings, so people can get to work,” Noonan said.

“There are going to be employees who are entrenched against that kind of change,” Fantz said. “Working hours are a contract issue that would have to be addressed in negotiations.”

“How about having some come in early and some come in later?” asked Hofstad.

“I’m not opposed to that idea,” Fantz said, “but unfortunately, this isn’t something we can just do.”

“I agree,” Noonan said, “At least, we can’t do anything this winter, but we should take a look at it for the future.”

The board was also updated on a voluntary annexation agreement submitted by Jim Fehr of West Bend, who had completed the necessary requirements to voluntarily annex some farmland into joint drainage district PK1. The agreement would add 80.3 acres into the district, but the land does eventually drain into the joint district.

“Jim is going to install a 15” main through land belonging to two of his neighbors and run it into the Joint PK1 Ditch,” Wirtz explained. “He’s gotten permission from both neighbors and will allow them to connect to the tile, Kuehl and Payer have looked his plans over and signed off on them and he is paying the full cost of this work himself. We have to sign off on his request and then forward it to Kossuth.

Wirtz concluded, “he went about this in he proper way and has done a great job with his neighbors on this, so I recommend we sign off on it.”

The board agreed to sign off on the request and forward it to Kossuth County as the control county of the joint district.