Floyd County budget appeal hearing Wednesday night at fairgrounds
By Bob Steenson, [email protected]
For the second year in a row, Floyd County officials and a group of county residents will square off in front of state staff to argue why the county budget for the upcoming fiscal year was either put together properly and should be left as is, or why the state should order the amount of county spending to be reduced.
The Floyd County budget appeal hearing will take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Youth Enrichment Center at the Floyd County Fairgrounds.
The hearing is in response to a petition with 274 signatures that was filed with the County Auditor’s Office by Gordon Boge, president of the Coalition for a Better County Government.
The petition alleges that the three-member Board of Supervisors acted improperly or insufficiently in a number of areas, including public notification about the budget process, the amount of the budget increases in “each and every line item of the budget,” how the board proposes using American Rescue Plan Act funds, maintaining adequate cash reserves, how much the county is spending and the ways the county is funding the cost of the new law enforcement center and courthouse update project, and other areas.
The final decision as to whether the supervisors acted appropriately will be made by the State Appeal Board, consisting of Director of the Department of Management Michael Bousselot, State Treasurer Michael L. Fitzgerald and the Auditor of State Rob Sand.
Each of those offices will be represented by a staff member during the hearing Wednesday, along with a person appointed by the board as hearing officer, and that panel will gather the evidence presented at the hearing and in prepared statements and evidence presented in writing to the State Appeal Board prior to the hearing.
According to information from the State Appeal Board, the hearing will be informal and should last a maximum of 1 hour, 15 minutes. The order of business will be petitioners presenting their appeal to the board, Board of Supervisors making their opening remarks and rebuttal, then opportunity for rebuttal from the petitioners.
After that, statements will be heard from third-party interveners, if any, then from members of the audience, followed by questions by members of the panel, then closing statements by the petitioners and Board of Supervisors.
County Auditor Gloria Carr said the county will be represented at the hearing by Supervisor Chair Doug Kamm, Carr and Assistant County Attorney Randall Tilton.
“The burden shall be upon the objectors with reference to any proposed item in the budget which was included in the budget of the previous year and which the objectors propose should be reduced or excluded,” according to the Iowa Code dealing with budget appeals.
“The burden shall be upon the certifying board or the levying board, as the case may be, to show that any new item in the budget, or any increase in any item in the budget, is necessary, reasonable, and in the interest of the public welfare,” the code continues.
Last year a similar budget appeal hearing was held in May at Wrightz Auction, north of Floyd, after a petition was presented with about 1,200 names on it. The three members of the State Appeal Board discussed the staff recommendation from the hearing at a telephonic meeting it held June 7 and voted unanimously to not change the county budget based on the appeal.
The hearing did discover an error that was made in the process of certifying the budget, regarding the wording of the “Max Tax” resolution part of the process, which resulted in the amount of property tax collected in several large parts of the budget being set at the same level as the previous fiscal year, and reducing the amount of property taxes the board had expected to receive for the current 2021-22 fiscal year by $1.18 million.
Most of the reason for the budget appeal has to do with double-digit increases in county property taxes and concern over the cost of the law enforcement center and courthouse update project, which was originally estimated by the project architect to be able to be finished for about $13.5 million, but which is now predicted to cost a total of a little over $18 million and be finished about two years later than originally planned.