Government

Johnson County approves 2020 budget, but not unanimously

Countywide levy drops slightly, but rural levy will increase

The Johnson County Health and Human Services building (right) is connected by a skywalk over E. Benton Street to the Johnson County Administration Building. (Gazette file photo)
The Johnson County Health and Human Services building (right) is connected by a skywalk over E. Benton Street to the Johnson County Administration Building. (Gazette file photo)

IOWA CITY — For the second year in a row, the Johnson County budget did not receive unanimous approval.

Johnson County supervisors this week adopted a $138.3 million spending plan for fiscal 2020 on a 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Janelle Rettig voting no.

Rettig cited concerns about spending too much money to grow the board’s staff and the use of the Johnson County conservation bond money.

The 2020 fiscal budget funds almost 12 new full-time positions.

It also calls for spending $2.47 million of the $20 million conservation bond for more land acquisition and for part of the Hoover Trail project.

The budget includes a slight decrease in the countywide property tax levy rate for the second year in a row.

The countywide levy dropped 5 cents to $6.49 per $1,000 of taxable value. For rural areas, the levy will increase 1.6 cents to $10.18 per $1,000 of taxable value.

“I find it unfortunate that a significant percentage of the conservation bond initiative is being spent on an events center and associate buildings,” Rettig said.

“As this budget reflects, that is a money trap, and it will always be a money trap, and cost the taxpayers of Johnson County significant money forever to maintain those buildings,” she said.

Rettig also voted against the budget last year, citing concerns that conservation bond money was going to purchase developed property instead of land with natural landscapes.

Last year, the county announced it would use conservation bond money to buy 132 acres of wooded area and buildings that include the events venue Celebration Barn and other barns, a railroad museum and a sawmill.

The seven parcels of land sold by Dick Schwab and Katherine Burford had an assessed value of $3.89 million. The county purchased the land for $2.83 million.

Rettig at the time said because some of the property features woodlands that she wouldn’t mind using conservation bond money to buy.

But “spending our limited resources on buildings is not what I voted for and campaigned for in 2008,” she said.

Other budget highlights include $630,000 for affordable housing.

For major secondary road projects, the budget includes $2.5 million for work on Herbert Hoover Highway near Wapsi Road and another $3.7 million for IWV Road from Hebl Avenue to Highway 218.

The budget can be found on the johnson-county.com finance page.

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.