The financial situation of Cherokee County government is reportedly better than that of other Iowa counties but Kris Glienke of the Cherokee County Auditor's office urges caution for the future.
"For losing 23 percent of our ag valuation we're doing extremely well," Glienke told the Cherokee County Board of Supervisors last week in her quarterly financial report.
There will be some relief from the most recent semi-annual property tax adjustment that takes effect as of the tax collection in the fall of 2006. There will be an increase of 10 percent in agricultural land valuations and 9 percent for residential valuations in Cherokee County. Bonnie Ebel, county auditor, said that there will be an adjustment to the rollback, lowering the amount of the property assessment that is taxable, but this adjustment will be slight.
However, with fuel prices and other factors affecting the local economy, Glienke is concerned about future revenues. This was a concern echoed by the supervisors.
Part of the way in which the county has gotten through the last year and a half of reduced revenue is spending down the balance in the general funds. The $1,817,486 fund balance is down from $2,043,771 of this time a year ago.
This is in accordance with a budgeting decision by the supervisors. Spending down the ending fund balance (reserves) has been suggested by many citizens and has enabled the county to avoid a supplemental levy that most counties have imposed.
The property tax levied for county government is the third lowest in the state.
Also, county departments have reduced expenditures. Glienke said that the county offices are operating on bare bones budgets.
Some departments are having problems resulting from recent dramatic increases in fuel costs. Glienke said that the sheriff's department has spent 40 percent of its transportation budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.
The conservation department had spent 65 percent of transportation budget as of the first of the month, with another bill expected soon. The conservation department generally spends less on transportation during the winter months.
Glienke noted that there is no longer a cushion in the county departments' budgets to take care of a particular line item overrun. Spending over one line item means reduced spending for other budgeted spending.
Larry Clark, county engineer, said the secondary roads department is in line with spending. He explained that by law, secondary roads is required not only to keep overall spending within the budget but to keep spending for each line item within the budget.