County budget hearing March 12

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By Pat McTaggart

Freelance Journalist

A budget hearing for Clayton County has been set for March 12 at 1:30 p.m. at the Clayton County Office Building in Elkader. The budget has total expenditures of $19,990,656 with an urban residential tax levy of $6.15 per $1,000 of assessed value and a rural residential rate of $9.07.  With the legislative mandated rollback of 56.91 percent, an urban owner of a $100,000 home will pay $350 in the county’s portion of property taxes and a rural resident will pay $516.

The current fiscal year budget contains $18,931,763 in expenditures with an urban tax rate of $5.81 and a rural rate of $9.18, a 55.62 percent rollback. The same $100,000 home owner paid $323 in county property taxes this year, while the rural owner paid $510.

Board Chairman Ray Peterson and newly-elected supervisors Sharon Keehner and Steve Doeppke have been working on the budget for weeks. Keehner and Doeppke jumped into the process.

“I have had budget experience, but on a smaller scale,” Keehner said. “My finance business background has helped me read the financial statements, and I studied spending trends for the last two years.  Ray and Jennifer (Garms, county auditor) were very good about explaining how it works. Steve and I also attended the new supervisor training in Des Moines to learn about the process.”

Doeppke has also had some experience with budgets.  “I did budgets when I was on church council for two years,” he said.  “The Des Moines session for new supervisors training was also helpful.”

“They did pretty good,” Chairman Peterson said.  “It is a lot to take in.”

All three supervisors noted that the biggest department budgets are roads and transportation ($7,153,088) and public safety and legal services ($3,278,483).  “They are both service orientated and essential services for all citizens,” Keehner said. 

A positive for the county this coming year is that its medical insurance did decrease slightly.  “The mental health levy will also remain the same, which is $35.18 per capita for the county,” Keehner said.

The supervisors were asked what the greatest challenges are in preparing the fiscal year budget.   “Keeping a balanced budget and addressing taxpayers' and employees' concerns,” Doeppke said.

“Balancing the needs of the citizens of the county and the amount of taxes it takes to make it all work,” Keehner replied.  “Another concern is the county employees—they all work hard so it is a concern to keep them compensated for their hard work.”  

“We try to keep taxes down and still keep up increases in insurance costs, maintaining roads, equipment and infrastructure,” Peterson added.

When asked about goals for collected revenues, Doeppke and Peterson both said that they want to use tax money responsibly and efficiently, while keeping taxes down.

“Maintaining and expanding services for all citizens while keeping taxes steady or like this year slightly lower is our first goal,” Keehner added. “Being fiscally responsible with tax money is important and an important goal of the supervisors.”


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