By Bob Steenson, email@example.com
It’s official. Floyd County supervisors approved the new fiscal year county budget at their regular meeting Tuesday morning.
The budget, which will take effect July 1, includes increases in the tax rate for all county property owners, primarily to begin paying for the bonds sold to finance the new law enforcement center and courthouse update project.
A public hearing on the budget proposal drew two comments, one in an anonymous letter sent to the board and one by a county resident who attended the hearing.
Gordon Boge, who lives in the northern part of the county and who said he was representing the Coalition for Better County Government, said rural agriculture is struggling and “another increase in property tax is going to be hard to deal with.”
“When does the time come when you’re finally going to have to say ‘no’ to something?” he asked.
Boge said the supervisors “need to have a little compassion for senior citizens,” who are also facing other cost increases, such as increasing sewer rates and garbage collection rates for residents of Charles City.
“We need a hospital, we need a sheriff, we need road graders,” Boge said. “The concern is, how much more can we take? This is a substantial increase.”
The county property tax rate will increase from the current $5.45 per $1,000 of taxable valuation, to $6.93 for property owners in incorporated cities. That’s an increase of 27 percent.
The tax rate for people living in rural parts of the county will increase from the current $8.85 per $1,000 of taxable value, to $10.53, an increase of 19 percent.
In both cases, $1.10 of the increase is for debt service on the bonds sold to finance the new law enforcement center and courthouse update project.
An anonymous letter sent to the board, read by County Auditor Gloria Carr, said the writer understood about the increased taxes for the new jail, saying, “I voted for it.”
“However, that does not account for the large increases in spending … that are budgeted for the hospital, the sheriff, auditor and data processing departments.
“How do you justify hiring a new full-time IT person and all the other increases in spending?” the letter asked. “Is there adequate money in the county’s reserve funds to sustain these spending increases in the future?”
Addressing concerns raised by Boge and the letter writer, Supervisor Doug Kamm said he hopes a $250,000 payment approved this year for the Floyd County Medical Center is “a short-term thing, hopefully this year only,” and he explained that the Floyd County hospital is only one of two county hospitals in the state that doesn’t have it’s own tax levying authority.
Kamm said he hopes the hospital changes that status, and Supervisor Linda Tjaden said she is working with the County Attorney’s Office “to see what we can do to try and get that conversation going, and then get with the hospital commission to start that discussion.”
Auditor Carr cautioned, however, that allowing the hospital to levy its own taxes likely wouldn’t lower the overall tax bill paid by county residents.
“Keep in that mind that could raise your taxes even more, “ Carr said. “Mitchell County taxes $750,000 a year” for its hospital.
Supervisor Roy Schwickerath said another big issue this year was the premium the county is paying for county employee health insurance.
Premiums went way up last year because of a bad year of medical claims, he said, but the board at that time decided to absorb most of the cost by using reserve funds, hoping the claim experience would be better this year and rates would stabilize.
Instead, he said, the county had another bad year of medical claims and the premiums went up again.
“Because we didn’t take a baby step last year, it is a bigger step this year,” Schwickerath said.
Boge suggested Floyd County look at the example set by Mitchell County and increase the number of county supervisors from three to five.
“I don’t think two more people around those seats would hurt,” he said.
After closing the hearing the supervisors voted 3-0 to approve the new county budget as presented.