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Budget Earns Tentative Approval From Palo Alto Conference Board

By Staff | Feb 15, 2011

A budget of $242,948 for fiscal year 2011-2012 received tentative approval with little discussion from the Palo Alto County Conference Board following a meeting of the body on Feb. 9. The budget for the Palo Alto County Assessor’s Office was presented by Assessor Lois Naig during the Conference Board’s annual meeting and reflected an increase of $23,322 over the current budget. The proposed budget will be voted on during a public hearing set for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 1, in the Supervisors’ boardroom of the Palo Alto County Courthouse in Emmetsburg.

The Conference Board, which is comprised of the county Board of Supervisors, as well as representatives of each of the school districts in the county and the mayors of each community in the county. Present for the session were Palo Alto County Supervisors Keith Wirtz, Leo Goeders, Ron Graettinger and Ed Noonan, as well as Mayors Marilyn Schutz of West Bend, Kevin Hanson of Graettinger, John Schad of Emmetsburg and Jim Gehrt of Mallard. Also attending was Ray Grandstaff, representing the Ruthven-Ayrshire School Board. Quorums of two of the three groups were present, allowing action to be taken, in accordance with the Code of Iowa.

Making her annual report to the Conference Board, Naig reported that in the past year, her office had updated all agricultural buildings, including out buildings. “Palo Alto County has a total of over 15,888 parcels of taxable property,” Naig reported. “The total taxable real estate in the county amounts to $899,855,283.”

Exempt property in the county totaled $173,692,440, with federal, state, county and city-owned property totaling $108,417,820 of that amount.

Naig reported that four appeals of property assessments were heard in the past year, with two going to the district court and two to the state appeals board, with all four cases being found in the county’s favor. “There were 28 protests last year, with nine denied and 19 upheld. Seven of those involved rural residential property and 18 were urban residential property.”

In discussing the county Board of Review, Naig noted that two vacancies needed to be filled, one due to the death of member George Halder, Jr., and the other due to the expiration of the term of member Robert Runchey on Dec. 31, 2010.

Supervisor Ron Graettinger offered the name of Eugene Berkland as a possible replacement for one of the vacancies.

“Do we need to meet the gender balance requirements?” asked Emmetsburg Mayor John Schad. “I know I’ve been working on meeting that 2010 requirement very hard for the city’s boards and commissions.”

“We have to try, but if we can’t, we would have to file some paperwork with the Department of Revenue and continue to try and find someone,” Naig responded, citing the Jan. 1, 2012 gender balance deadline.

“Maybe we should try and find a female member for the board,” West Bend Mayor Marilyn Schutz agreed. “Maybe we could advertise for women interested in serving on the Board of Review and find someone we could appoint to fill a vacancy.”

“We could wait until the public hearing on the budget to appoint someone so we could see what interest there is in the position,” Schad suggested.

The group agreed with the idea, and following a motion by Graettinger that was seconded by Schutz, Eugene Berkland was appointed to a six-year term on the Board of Review to replace Robert Runchey. The appointment was approved on a unanimous 3-0 vote, and the appointment to fill Halder’s unexpired term was tabled until the Public Hearing on March 1.

Naig reported that the current web site for the Assessor’s Office, which is being hosted by the Schneider Corp. as part of the county’s GIS program development, would cost $9,060 per year for hosting once the GIS work is done. “I’ve found an organization that will commit to a five-year hosting agreement at $2,785 per year,” Naig reported. “We’ll be making that change.”

Naig also noted that a re-evaluation of commercial properties in the county is needed, as it was last updated in 2000. “There are 865 commercial properties in the county, and I have a quote from Vanguard Appraisals for a complete revaluation of those properties in the amount of $131,000. We could budget for that over five years, at a cost of $26,000 a year or four years for $32,000 a year. It’s something to think about.”

“Why the Vanguard appraisal?” Schad asked Naig.

“They would actually come in and physically visit each property, do measurements and inspections,” Naig answered. “If we do it in-house, we have to basically review their property cards and work off those. Vanguard would be a complete re-assessment.”

In presenting the proposed budget to the Conference Board members, Naig noted that the increase in the budget was primarily due to the increases in employee insurance, along with a modest salary increase and increases in postage and mileage expenses.

On a motion by Supervisor Leo Goeders that was seconded by Marilyn Schutz the budget was given tentative approval on a unanimous vote. The Public Hearing for the Assessors’ Budget will be conducted at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 1, in the Palo Alto County Supervisors’ Boardroom at the courthouse.