Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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October 25, 2009

Sullivan’s Salvos 10/27/09

Happy Halloween! I hope you scare more people than scare you, and I hope you get all the best candy! Please be careful out there, and watch out for young trick-or-treaters.

Election Day is coming right up, and every city in Johnson County has a race! For more info on who is running, when and where you can vote, and more important voting information, please check out the Johnson County Auditor’s website at: .

There are several good folks stepping down from City Council positions throughout Johnson County. Thanks to each and every one of them for their service!

A special shout out to North Liberty Councilor Jim Wozniak, who has decided against seeking reelection. I have had the pleasure of working with Jim on numerous topics during his 4 years, and I can assure you that North Liberty is a better place because of his time in office. Good luck in the future, Jim!

Happy 20th anniversary to Life Skills, Inc.! Life Skills has assisted lots of people during 20 years of existence. Congratulations to Executive Director Gillian Fox and all the folks there. For more info on Life Skills, see:

Johnson County is beginning the budgeting process for Fiscal Year 2011 (FY11), which will begin July 1st of 2010. Here are some ongoing budget issues, and my take on them:

General Fund versus Rural Fund: If you pay property taxes in Johnson County, you pay into the General Fund. All taxpayers do. If you live in the unincorporated area of the county, you also pay into the Rural Fund. The Rural Fund covers expenses specific to rural residents – mostly roads, but also libraries, landfill, and a couple smaller expenses. There are wide variations between counties as to what should be supported by the rural fund. Johnson County pays for virtually everything from the General Fund. (Only $3 million of the $84 million dollar budget is the Rural Fund.) Other counties do things differently.

Any single individual can easily create a budget: It isn’t that hard to support the programs and services you like, then cut the ones you don’t. It is much more difficult to do this for 135,000 people. Similarly, it isn’t that hard to decide how much you think you ought to pay in taxes, then apply that County wide. It is more difficult when you then recognize how many valuable services would need to be cut. Creating a budget that works for 135,000 people is challenging.

Taxes versus services: I had a man complain to me about his taxes. The next day, his wife complained about the condition of their road. They simply can’t have it both ways! Yes, this is an anecdote, but it sums up the fundamental budgetary difficulty- people want to pay less in taxes, but get more services. It cannot be done.

Mandated versus optional services: Some services are required by law. For example, Johnson County is obligated to hold elections. Other services are optional. For example, Johnson County has no legal obligation to fund DVIP. I take issue with things being portrayed this simply. Let’s go back to elections. While elections are mandated, there is no mandate as to the amount of elections staff, computer equipment, or other expenses. The law says we must do it, but it does not specify the amount we must spend. Funding DVIP may, in fact, be a very productive way to work toward Johnson County’s mission.

Conservative budgeting versus low taxes: It is important for folks to recognize that the lowest possible tax rate does not equate to the most conservative budgeting. For example – the most conservative budgeting includes money for maintenance. You need to spend money on upkeep, whether roads, buildings, or vehicles – or you’ll spend more in the long run. And I REFUSE to buy into the idea that taxes are inherently evil! Taxes are the price of supporting a civilized society.

Want to know a government’s priorities? Look at the budget. With that said, I encourage citizens to join us at our budget meetings. (The calendar is on the website.) Meanwhile, what are your priorities? Now is the time to let us know!

I recently read an interesting book called “The Numbers Game” by Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot. The whole idea is helping folks to make sense of statistical claims.

I love things like this! Here is one tidbit: Some people have difficulty imagining the scale of millions and billions. One helpful way to grasp the concept is to think in terms of seconds. A million seconds is 11.5 days. A billion seconds is almost 32 years.

You and your family are invited to "Bite into Healthy School Lunches!" Oct. 29 at 6pm at Old Brick--where you will actually be biting into a FREE dinner. Thanks to the generosity of Old Brick, VegFund, and the Red Avocado, this is a FREE educational-outreach event to call attention to Healthy School Lunches, a national campaign of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and the Cancer Project. Sen. Joe Bolkcom will deliver the keynote address. To reserve a few seats or an entire table contact Elizabeth at 358-0134 or .

Government is GOOD! How do I know? Because Medicare exists to provide medical care to our seniors. We all know scores of people who cannot wait until they reach the age of eligibility for Medicare. That is because the program works for our seniors!

Brought to you by your GOVERNMENT!

DID YOU KNOW? Chauncey Swan, John Ronalds, and Robert Ralston were appointed as the first commissioners for Johnson County in the Iowa Territory. Their job included the locating and planning of the new capitol.

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.

These messages come solely from Rod Sullivan, and neither represents the viewpoints of the whole Board of Supervisors nor those of groups or individuals otherwise mentioned.

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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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