County budget approved by supervisors

Bethany Carson

    The proposed county budget for Fiscal Year 2021 was unanimously adopted by the Butler County Board of Supervisors at their meeting on Tuesday, April 21.

    The approved budget  brings a 53 cent per thousand increase in the county levy rate. The levy rate increase was reduced following public outcry when a $1.15 per thousand increase was proposed in March.

     “I’m not in love with this budget. I don’t think a lot of people are, but like Rusty [Eddy] said last week, this isn’t a want budget. It’s a needs budget. We still need to operate the county. In the short amount of time I’ve been here, this is definitely one of the harder decisions I’ve had to make,” Supervisor Greg Barnett said. “But a lot of people have put a lot of time and effort into this budget to try to reduce it from the original amount, and I appreciate that. I appreciate all the public comment we’ve had on it. I think it’s important to have that. Like I said, I’m not crazy about it, but I don’t see any other way to keep moving forward here with the county.”

    Supervisor Rusty Eddy said he has learned a few lessons over the past six to eight weeks – and listened to more constituent input than he has ever had since he’s been in office, through phone calls, text messages, emails and visits. District Three, which he represents, is very active, and Eddy thanked citizens for sharing their thoughts.

    “Development in our county takes investment, and sometimes it seems a little too risky for some, but I think that some of the decisions that we’ve made as a board over the last few years will really benefit our county moving forward, and increase our tax base, increase our revenue, and I’ll tell you: I will never look back when I’m all done with this and view bringing industry and development to our county as a negative thing. The positives much outweigh the negatives,” Eddy said.

    He also noted that in the phone calls he has received there has been a greater ratio of me and I statements as opposed to we and us statements.

    “That’s completely understandable. Nobody wants their taxes to increase, without good cause anyway. But … I think it’s our job to focus on the us and we, as opposed to the I and the me. That’s what I’ve been elected to do, and that’s what I’m going to do today,” Eddy said.

    Eddy said that going forward the supervisors will look into what can be done for the benefit tof axpayers.

    “Nobody wants a huge increase in the levy, and this is the biggest increase that’s been proposed since I’ve been in office…” Eddy said. “I’ve had many discussions. … One thing I think maybe we can all take from some of this is that there doesn’t have to be a right side and a wrong side. I think that people that are opposed to this increase have some valid concerns, and they could very well be right. People that are for this increase could be right. It’s not a matter of who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s what can we all do for the betterment of our county.”

    Barnett mentioned that in addition to Trinity Rail and new businesses coming into the county, other improvements are also being made.

    “We are making a lot of new improvements too, important improvements, necessities, bridges and roads and things like that,” Barnett said. “I agree with Rusty. All of us as taxpayers never want to pay more taxes. I think everyone would agree on that, but there is a cost of doing business so to speak, and to keep the county operational. We did lower it I guess about in half from the original amount, but like I said, this is a tough decision.”

    During the time for public comment following the decision, Parkersburg resident John Luhring thanked the supervisors for listening to concerns presented.

    “We’ve come a long way since March 10. I do want to clarify that I think it was misinterpreted…” Luhring said. “I think the addition of Trinity in our county and the fact that they chose our county is something that we can be very proud of as citizens. Trinity Rail will bring assets to our county beyond what we can even see right now, and my only concern is that raising the levy rate might hinder some of the growth that Trinity actually proposes, and I think sometimes those comments were maybe taken the wrong way.”

    “I do appreciate the fact that the levy rate was lowered from over a dollar down to 53 cents, but I am still a little disappointed that there weren’t really any major cuts made to the budget. We just reallocated funds from year end general fund; then we made an amendment and shifted some money into this 2020 year. And I just am disappointed that from March 10 until today’s meeting on April 21 that we just reallocated funds. To me it didn’t look like we made any real cuts to any areas, and I haven’t had a chance to look at all the worksheets, so maybe there wasn’t any, and I know some of the comments have been that this was a need-based budget, not a want-based, so I’m just thankful that we did lower it from over a dollar down to 53 cents, and I’m just thankful for all your time,” Luhring added.

    Auditor Liz Williams replied that some expenditures were taken out of this year’s budget.

    “We did remove expenditures. $2 million went out for roads, and then almost another million in projects we had planned that we had to scale back on for improvements to the courthouse, so there were expenditures reduced if you would look at the detailed pages,” Williams said.


    Supervisor Rusty Eddy said he had heard some concerns about valuations of properties being too high, that he believes need to be addressed.

    “I got one from an individual who lives fairly close to where I live, and he expressed to me his concern about his valuation of his property. This is not something I’m an expert in. I’ve bought, built and paid for a few houses in my time. This particular property I think is off the charts. I think he paid about $75,000 less than what it’s valued at. That’s an absolute concern of mine,” said Eddy. “I think moving forward we need to take a look at valuations, and I would encourage any property owner out there listening, or that maybe reads the minutes in the paper, that if they have any concerns or questions about what their property is valued at, they can contact the assessor’s office. They can always ask for an assessment of their property, and they could also hire a private assessment company to review some of those things.”

    Assessor Michele Shultz said that one sale does not constitute a market.

    “We have to keep it at fair market value, and we’re always listening to taxpayers…” Shultz said. “We do try to provide fair and equitable assessments, and that helps fund local governments and services.”

Courthouse COVID-19 response

    The county’s response to COVID-19 in regard to office staffing at the courthouse was discussed.

    “I just want to say that regarding the virus that we have here in Iowa and specifically in Butler County, it doesn’t seem like we’ve reached the peak…” said Eddy. “It looks like the amount of infections particularly in the counties around us, specifically Black Hawk County, are continuing to rise.”

    Eddy encouraged any county employees who are concerned about their health to speak with department heads or the county supervisors. He encouraged department heads to continue to do everything possible to follow guidelines from the state, observe social distancing precautions, and to do whatever is possible to accommodate any employees who may wish to work from home.

    Each of the department heads gave a report on their offices. Some employees are working from home. Others are working in the field, and others are practicing social distancing while working at the courthouse

    The sheriff’s office is setting up a secondary dispatch location to continue to serve the county in case there should be an exposure at the primary dispatch office at any time in the future.

    Public Health nurses continue to wear appropriate PPE and follow policies and procedures as directed. Director Jennifer Becker thanked the Board of Health and Board of Supervisors for their continued support.

Other business

    A comment was received from John Zimmerman of Aredale, who expressed concern that the supervisors had a salary increase this year like the rest of county staff, instead of excluding themselves.

    In other news, the meeting concluded with a closed session for discussion on the State Auditor’s Special Audit statement for services settlement.


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