Supervisors set budget hearing

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By Pam Reinig

The tax levy for Clayton County residents will decrease for 2015-2016 under a proposed budget that will be presented at a public hearing March 9. The meeting will begin at 1:30 p.m. at the county government building, 600 Gunder Road, Elkader.

The levy will drop 21 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. For urban residents that means a decrease from $7.36 per $1,000 to $7.15. Rural residents will pay $10.52 per $1,000. So, the owner of a $100,000 home in an urban area will be assessed $398 for the county’s share of property taxes with the state-mandated 55.74 percent rollback. The same home will be assessed $586 in rural areas.

“We went through all department budgets and put in the figures we thought we could allow,” explained Gary Bowden, Board of Supervisors chair. “We sent those figures to the auditor to be put on the proper forms and totaled. The figure he brought back was less than the current levy.”

The proposed budget includes expenditures of $15.98 million; the current budget is $16.83 million. Contributing to the lower number was an $18,000 savings in mental health expenditures.

“We have 22 counties in our region operating efficiently and, as a result, we have leftover funds that are going back to those counties,” Bowden explained. The counties use a common, contracted provider instead of individually offering and paying for services.

A portion of the budget includes debt service on $2.4 million borrowed in recent years for three capital improvement projects: county office building, law enforcement center and sewer lagoon bond for Scenic Acres. To achieve zero debt like Allamakee and Fayette counties will take about 13 years, according to Bowden’s estimates.

According to Bowden, secondary roads and the sheriff’s departments receive the lion’s share of the budget money. Operating expenses for each department have changed very little, which is an anomaly among local government entities. The Supervisors authorized a modest 2 percent wage increase for non-union employees and an even more modest two-thirds of 1 percent increase for themselves. The budget to a 4 percent hit for health insurance. Increases for the two bargaining unions (law enforcement and secondary roads) are still being negotiated.

“The budget is clean and straightforward,” Bowden said. “Hopefully, if people have questions they will show up for the budget hearing.”

Editor’s note: Freelance writer Pat McTaggart contributed to this article.

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