Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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November 22, 2008

Sullivan’s Salvos 11/25/08

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you and yours have a safe and pleasant holiday. And in the spirit of the holiday… thank you for indulging me by reading Salvos every week! I appreciate your interest!

In my continuing battle to show that taxes are not a bad thing… let’s talk about value. Value is subjective, so it can be hard to quantify. I value going to Hawkeye sporting events. Many folks would say I am crazy; it is a better value to pay for cable and watch at home. That opinion is no more or less valid than my own. There is no right or wrong.

Similar questions regarding value surround us every day. Is a high quality cup of coffee worth the $2.50 you will spend, or is a $.75 cup of lower quality brew your better value? Is a $150,000 house in town a better value than a $250,000 house in the country, or is the bucolic setting worth $100,000? Different people will value these things differently.

Recognizing that we value different things, I still feel good about the value we get for our tax dollars. I live in a house valued at $162,000. I pay $2,744 annually in property taxes.

This breaks down as follows: $1,198 to the City of Iowa City. $959 to the ICCSD. $506 to Johnson County. All the rest (4 smaller levies) add up to about $80.

Those are the facts. Now I need to determine if I get a good value for my dollar.

I will begin with my biggest expense. Do I get $1200 worth of services from Iowa City? I say yes. I do not have to worry about sewer, water, garbage, or most recycling; they are made easy. Streets and sidewalks are in decent repair. They get plowed and swept. Traffic flows pretty well most places. Melissa takes the city bus to work all winter long. Police and fire help to keep my family safe. BJ spends a lot of time at City Park Pool; the whole family uses rec facilities at Mercer Park. I love the fact that Iowa City has a Human Rights Ordinance, broadcasts public meetings on cable, and vacuums my leaves. Is all this worth $3.29 per day? You bet it is! In keeping with the season, I say Thank You, Iowa City!

Do I get $959 worth of value from the ICCSD? Well, for that $959, my three kids have attended schools merely two or three blocks from our house. They have had relatively small class sizes. They have attended schools that rank in the top few in the country for their performances in academics, athletics, the fine arts, and more.
Do I have complaints with the ICCSD? Of course – I have 3 children there. Things are not perfect. But I feel very good about the way in which my tax dollars are spent there. I pay about 25 cents per hour of instruction per child. Is this a good value? Put it this way – a babysitter would cost ten times that amount, no education included! You bet it is a great value! In keeping with the season, I say Thank You, Iowa City Community School District!

I think the City of Iowa City and the ICCSD are giving me some of my best values anywhere. I do not get the same value at the grocery store. I do not get the same value when I buy gas or buy a car. I do not get this type of value from the many insurances I feel the need to buy. I do not get this type of value from most of my public sector transactions.

So instead of bashing government and bad-mouthing taxes, let’s take a look at the value we get for our dollars. Once you do, I think you will join me in the spirit of the season, and say Thanks!

The Iowa State Association of Counties (ISAC) met last week right here in Coralville. About 1,000 elected officials from all over Iowa attended, with a special visit from Governor Culver.

I always enjoy talking with Elected Officials from other counties. I think this is a great way to learn new things. In addition, we get legislative updates, approve a legislative agenda, elect officers, and cover topics of general interest.

I was extremely disappointed to see 3 states (AZ, FL, CA) vote to encourage discrimination in their states. All three states passed language prohibiting gay marriage.

Much of the opposition to gay rights seems to come from folks who object on religious grounds. This seems odd to me, given that Christianity teaches “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

I look forward to the day that the US chooses to fully accept our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

DID YOU KNOW? Johnson County has 1.5 terabytes of data backed up every night. That does not include GIS, which uses 2 terabytes on its own.

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website-

"Sullivan’s Salvos" is sent once per week to any interested party. It will give a brief update on issues of interest to Johnson County residents.

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As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!



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