On the money

Supervisors prepare for budget talks

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
The Webster County Board of Supervisors meets in the Webster County Courthouse, center, on Tuesdays.

Annual budget talks for Webster County began Friday morning, as the county supervisors met with department heads to go line by line through their department’s proposed spending plans.

Veterans’ Affairs and the Treasurer’s office presented their initial numbers for the upcoming 2018-2019 fiscal year.

Supervisors and department heads will be in budget talks all next week.

The numbers will likely be finalized by late February, Webster County Auditor Doreen Pliner said. Final numbers are due to the state by mid-March.

Less than half of the county’s revenue comes from county property taxes, according to the online budget documents on file with the Iowa Department of Management.

The fiscal year begins on July 1. In Iowa the year is typically named after the second of the two calendar years. The county is currently in FY 2018, making plans for FY 2019 which will begin in about six months.

The current year’s budget is about $38.7 million in expenditures. With $36.1 million in revenues and other financing sources, this means the county plans to spend about $2.5 million of its fund balance by the end of the fiscal year. The fund balance is projected to be $14.08 million by June 30.

County departments have multiple funding sources. For instance, county public health gets little or no funding from property taxes. Instead it’s paid through grants, Medicaid, fees for service and other revenue streams. It also acts as a “pass through” for multiple services.

For the county secondary roads department, run by the Webster County Engineer, the top three revenue sources are road use (gas) taxes, property taxes and local option sales taxes, with the gas tax providing 49 percent of the revenue.

So with budgeted $36 million in revenue, the county only collects about $12 million in taxes levied on property, according to last year’s budget.

About $13 million in revenue comes from other government agencies, $3.9 million is from other county taxes, and about $977,000 is listed as “charges for services.”

Those “other government” funds include $5 million in state shared revenues (mostly for secondary roads), and $3.5 million in federal/state pass through revenues.

Proposed tax rates for the coming year won’t be known until budget talks are complete.

In FY 2018, property tax rates are about $5.955 per $1,000 assessed value for urban areas, and $9.617 per thousand for rural areas — a change of less than one cent from fiscal year 2017.

In last year’s budget hearings Supervisor Merrill Leffler said increases in assessed values throughout the county, predominately as more wind turbine revenue comes in, helped the county hold tax rates steady even as expenses climb.

Taxes were higher in FY 2016 — $6.397 urban and $10.055 rural.

To see the 2018 budget on the Iowa Department of Management website visit is.gd/WebCo2018

Preliminary numbers for the treasurer’s office show an increase from $672,927 to $707,022, or a 5 percent increase.

These numbers will likely change, Webster County Treasurer Jan Messerly said, as some fixes are made.

Her employees will get a 2.5 percent cost of living raise, Messerly said, as is standard for the county workers; and three of them will receive a step increase as well.

The veteran’s affairs budget will go from $111,525 to $113,869, a 2.1 percent increase.

Leffler said the board will seek more clarity on whether or not the VA director is salaried or hourly, and said a salaried employee should not be paid overtime for working more than 40 hours.

Webster County Board of Supervisors

Budgets online

• To see the 2017-2018 budget on the Iowa Department of Management website visit is.gd/WebCo2018

• The county is streaming its budget talks live on Facebook this year. To view talks, on the coming 2018-2019 budget year, search for Webster County Courthouse, Fort Dodge Iowa.

Proposed Webster County budgets for fiscal year 2018-2019

These numbers are subject to change

• Veterans Affairs: $113,869, up from $111,525, a 2.10 percent increase

• Treasurer: $707,022, up from $672,927, a 5.07 percent increase