Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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May 17, 2009

Sullivan’s Salvos 5/19/09

Happy Memorial Day! Thanks to all who are serving and have served our country. Your service is appreciated!

The Board voted on May 14 to explore rebuilding the missing section of the Sutliff Bridge.

I thought this was a no-brainer. Granted, I am biased… I grew up at the Sutliff Store. But look at the facts:

*The Sutliff Bridge is a huge tourist attraction, with visitors from all 50 states and several foreign countries. Thousands of people visit Johnson County so they can check out the bridge. Boaters, anglers, birdwatchers, bikers, motorcyclists, snowmobilers, history buffs, and others visit Sutliff for recreation.

*FEMA will pay 90% of the cost, with the State of Iowa picking up 10%. So no money comes from the County budget.

*Liability will cost Johnson County only a couple dollars per year, and the Sutliff Bridge Authority has pledged to continue raising money for maintenance.

* If, at some point, engineering studies show that rebuilding the bridge is not viable, Johnson County can change course and use FEMA funds to demolish the remaining section. (Clearly, not my preference.)

Two Johnson County residents have recently been honored for their outstanding service on behalf of senior citizens. Congratulations to Eve Casserly of Coralville, who was honored with a Shining Star Award from Governor Culver. Even more impressively, the Reverend Bob Welsh has been honored with the first ever Betty Grandquist Lifetime Achievement Award for his years of working to improve the lives of senior citizens. Kudos to both of these wonderful volunteers!

Great news from Johnson County’s Free Tax Help Program – also known as You Earned It, Now Claim It!

This effort, a cooperation between the ICCSD, Iowa City, and numerous local agencies, brings a tremendous amount of money into Johnson County that would likely otherwise go unclaimed, including Earned Income Tax Credits. The money goes directly to our poorest residents, who tend to spend it locally.

The numbers? We held 36 clinics throughout Johnson County, with 93 volunteers providing 1800 hours of service. They filled out 954 returns (a 42% increase) and the amount coming back to Johnson County is $1.2 million, 100% more than a year ago.

Thank you to everyone who has been involved in this outstanding effort!

There are many critical decisions facing the ICCSD Board of Directors. In my opinion, the key issue here is not local at all. The problem lies with the Iowa Legislature. Here is the problem: the Legislature has decided that there is a maximum that can be spent per pupil. It does not matter if the money comes from the Feds, State, or local taxes – school districts are capped at a maximum per pupil amount. When you hear Dr. Plugge talk about “Spending Authority”, he is referring to the fact that we are capped by the State.

I can empathize. Johnson County faces the same dilemma when it comes to Mental Health & Disability services. Even though we want to spend more, we can’t. I fear that we are going to be faced with the same scenario as it applies to several Public Health programs.

While I understand the State’s desire to equalize per pupil spending, I think the approach is wrong. We should not penalize local governments who want to exceed State expectations. The proper role of State government is to set MINIMUM expectations, not MAXIMUM outcomes. Why hold people back?

Every child in Iowa deserves a great education; great should be the baseline. But local communities should be able to do better than great! I hope the ICCSD Board will enlist the citizens of Johnson County and crusade for the right to exceed state standards.

DID YOU KNOW? 68 Iowans died on the job in 2008, including 3 members of the US military.

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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