Following a public hearing at which one citizen expressed concerns, the Cherokee County Board of Supervisors approved a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The county property tax levy for the next fiscal year will be slightly less than $4.37 ($4.36623) per thousand dollars taxable valuation for urban residents and slightly less than $7.62 ($7.61623) per thousand dollars taxable valuation for rural residents.
This is an increase of slightly less than 17 cents per $1,000 property tax for both urban and rural taxpayers. All of this is the result of an increase in the mental health levy from $0.70 per $1,000 taxable valuation to $0.86623.
The rural basic and the general basic levies will not change in rate. The rate is currently the third lowest of all the counties in Iowa.
Total expenditures are estimated at $11,850,215 with estimated revenues falling about $1.5 million short of expenditures, bringing the estimated ending fund balance down from $3,675,030 to $2,162,708.
Kris Glienke, deputy auditor, said that the secondary roads budget does not include all probable revenue from outside sources, so the ending fund balance will not actually be as low as estimated. A similar reduction of the ending fund balance previously projected for the present fiscal year will actually result in a reduction of about $675,000 in the reserve funds, an amount that will probably be similar for the 2006/07 fiscal year.
The breakdown of expenditures by service area include: roads and transportation - 31 percent; secondary road projects - 18 percent; public safety and legal services - 15 percent; mental health - 12 percent; administration - 10 percent; physical health and social services - 7 percent; county environment and education - 4 percent; and government services to residents - 3 percent.
Jack Clark raised questions on the expenses the county incurs from the county engineer office, the weed commissioner and the county sheriff's department.
Clark asked how other counties can get by on one engineer or a shared engineer while Cherokee County has two.
Larry Clark, county engineer, said that there is only one certified engineer for the county.
"Larry Clark has literally brought millions of dollars into the county," Terry Graybill, supervisor, noted.
Ron Wetherell, supervisor, said that not many counties put down and maintain the miles of hard surface roads that Cherokee County does. Wetherell said that when Larry Clark first started, he didn't think the county was getting enough road use tax and was scheduled to lose $2 million in highway funds because of the lack of projects. Wetherell said that Clark was able to save that @2 million for local projects.
"We have the highest priced weed commissioner in the state," Jack Clark stated. He contended that other counties handle the weed commissioner's duties through the conservation board or by a $8 to $10.50 per hour pay as needed with no benefits.
Graybill questioned whether the county would save any money by blending the duties of the weed commissioner with that of the conservation board.
Clark questioned why the sheriff's department hires deputies who need trained while not hiring people who are not already qualified.
Wetherell stated that it was the sheriff's call on who to hire.