IOWA CITY — Accomplishments in public safety, road work and taxes were among the topics Johnson County officials touted in their annual report meeting Thursday afternoon.
The Board of Supervisors, along with some other county officials and staff, went over reports from each department detailing fiscal year 2016 highlights in a one-hour presentation and reception. The event was a chance for the county to publicize its most notable numbers, among them areas such as jail populations, social services, road work and taxes.
“Obviously it’s all for the people. It’s a very wide set of services that are provided,” said board chairman Rod Sullivan. “We live with these numbers and work with these numbers.”
The entire 35-page presentation can be found on the Johnson County website, johnson-county.com.
The average daily jail population in Johnson County decreased by 17 inmates between fiscal year 2015 to 2016 — moving from 114.4 people each day to 97.4. The county credits this improvement to various alternatives including the Marijuana Diversion Program and Drug Treatment Court.
While it is a cost savings for the county, that number still isn’t low enough. County Attorney Janet Lyness said during the meeting that the daily population is five people more than the number of beds in the county jail so inmates are still being transported to other jails.
The Social Services Department oversaw a Hunger Task Force report this year, which discovered that almost 19,000 people in Johnson County are food insecure. The task force provided recommendations, including a mobile food pantry, which are currently being implemented.
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Additionally, the department helped 552 families receive emergency assistance with rent, utilities or medications. The General Assistance Program also initiated efforts to provide assistance with programs like winter warming or free lunch to 100 individuals.
“I’m really proud of all that Social Services does. And I think sometimes the general public might not be aware of the huge number of people who are affected by what is offered through social services,” said Supervisor Lisa Green-Douglass, during the meeting.
The county worked on two major road projects in FY16 — one planned and the other out of necessity.
Crews completed a scheduled replacement of the Mehaffey Bridge over the Iowa River. Sullivan said the county had a “very very big investment” in the bridge, totaling almost $9 million.
The county, however, had to amend its roadwork plans this year to replace the deck of the Highway 965 bridge after crews found cracking. The project was approved and under construction within 90 days but the bridge is expected to remained closed until the end of November.
“Secondary roads is busy as usual,” said Supervisor Mike Carberry, during the meeting. “They’re working diligently to try to get that done as soon as possible.”
Sullivan said while Johnson County has a reputation for high taxes, the annual report shows the country is working to provide quality services without hiking property taxes, which is part of the first strategic priority outlined in the report.
For Iowa City residents about 18 percent of their property taxes go to the county, which make up Johnson County’s largest revenue source at almost $50 million.