BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – A proposed budget for Lee County expenses for the fiscal year 2020, beginning on July 1, has expenses for the county at more than $30 million.
Lee County Budget Director Cindy Renstrom submitted the proposed budget at a workshop following the regular meeting of the Lee County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
The budget shows total revenues at $28.5 million and expenses at $30.5 million. However that amount would likely slide back under the $30 million mark, as a bridge replacement project has been budgeted heavily due to unknown contributions.
The Mental Health -Development Disability fund, which has to be spent down to 20% of expenses, is showing an ending balance at the end of the 2020 fiscal year of $301,894. The fund had $1.5 million in it, and no new revenues are allocated to the fund.
The $301,894 represents 25% of expenses, so the county has almost met obligations under Iowa law requiring the spend down.
Renstrom has the county levy preliminarily set at $10.388/$1,000 assessed valuation, which is the same property tax rate for the current tax year. The levy will generate $13.56 million in the fiscal year off a county valuation of $1.48 billion and a debt service valuation of $1.52 billion. The county is allowed to assess a levy for debt service on valuations abated by tax increment financing, which represents the difference in the two figures. The levy remains at its lowest rate in at least the past 15 years.
Renstrom said the county has seen some substantial increases in rural valuations with the Iowa Fertilizer Co. and the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“(IFC’s) taxable valuation is now $63,516,825. The year before it was $6 million so that went up and the pipeline, which is new this year, is $60 million. Between those two things, our rural valuation went up quite a bit. And on railroads, Burlington Northern went up $7 million,” Renstrom said.
“That’s kind of why our fund balances are doing ok, because of that increase in valuations.”
The Iowa Fertilizer Co. is paying the county a set amount of money annually in lieu of property taxes on the facility. Those set payments are for the first 20 years and currently, the county receives $222, 278 per year.
The budget cuts into the county’s carryover balance about $2 million, reducing the fund balance to $8.1 million from $10.1 million. In 2019, the fund balance is estimated to drop about $1.9 million from $12.1 million. In 2018 the fund carryover fell $1.3 million and in 2017 the fund dropped $70,000.
Renstrom said she was also getting bond rates for a $5 million bond to pay for the digital upgrades for county emergency services. Lee County Sheriff Stacy Weber said he believes the project will cost around $1.5 to $2 million. Renstrom said she wanted to get a look at the rates, but would reissue bids for the bond when the time gets closer for the upgrades.
The Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) board is handling the transition for all county emergency service providers.
The county budget has to be certifed by March 15 and follow up meetings are being planned after regular Tuesday board meetings to continue to fine tune the budget.
Secondary roads shows an operating budget shortfall of $1.25 million, but Renstrom said County Engineer Ben Hull found an additional $500,000 after she had generated her reports that should have been put in revenue. She said Hull has also overbudgeted for bridges because those funds could be paid in two separate fiscal years, creating a savings of whatever money may be pushed into the next fiscal year.