Government

Linn County residents could see second year of reduced property tax rate

Supervisors to discuss budget Wednesday

Dawn Jindrich

Linn County budget director
Dawn Jindrich Linn County budget director

If approved later this week, Linn County’s fiscal 2020 budget will mark the second year of a reduced property tax levy rate for county residents.

But while the rate of $5.84 per $1,000 in taxable valuation marks the second year since officials cut 30 cents from the county levy rate, residents should expect that rate next year to bounce back to around the $6.14 levy rate, which the county had maintained for several years up to fiscal 2018.

“I would expect to see us somewhere back to that level,” Linn County Budget Director Dawn Jindrich said.

The two-year tax rate cut, Jindrich said, is tied to the county’s decision last year to reduce the county mental health levy — which goes to the Mental Health and Disability Services regions — and use accrued fund balance dollars instead.

The board will discus the proposed budget at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the formal boardroom of the Jean Oxley Linn County Public Service Center, 935 Second St. SW, Cedar Rapids.

Fiscal 2020 begins July 1 of this year.

All told, the budget this coming fiscal year is about $157 million, marking a roughly 33 percent increase from the more traditional $118 million budget.

Jindrich said that is due to the upcoming completion of the more than $30 million Dr. Percy and Lileah Harris Public Health and Youth Development Services building near 10th Avenue SE and Seventh Street SE.

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That project is slated for a fall completion, at which time the county will purchase the project through capital funds.

Fewer supervisors

Another slight change to the fiscal 2019 and 2020 budgets is the shift from a five-member Board of Supervisors to three.

The elimination of two supervisors seats resulted in a county savings of roughly $290,000 a year. However, county officials have hired a policy and administrative assistant at $90,000, including benefits, to pick up duties once held by a larger board.

The remainder of the savings — which was spread over the fiscal 2019 and 2020 budgets — was absorbed by other department needs.

Even if the full cost of two county supervisors was added to the county levy rate, it would represent less than two cents, Jindrich said.

Supervisor Ben Rogers, one of the three incumbents re-elected to the new three-member board, said the loss of two elected board members far outweighs the savings.

“The salaries of two supervisors is a fraction of a fraction of the county’s overall $120 million budget, but the reduction means that two supervisors, which is a majority of a three-member board, can control the budget and dictate policy,” Rogers said in an email.

Despite the adjustment to the mental health levy, a smaller board and a big capital project, Jindrich said the county will maintain a break-even budget.

Jindrich did note that, despite the county’s levy remaining unchanged, a resident’s property taxes still could be affected by other forces. Homeowners could see a 2.3 percent increase due to a change in the state residential rollback, she said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8309; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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