Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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March 1, 2013

Sullivan’s Salvos 3/5/13 In this edition: *Vote Today! *More on SEATS *P&Z Stats *Congrats Chief Rocca! *Prairie Preview *Did You Know? *Vote Today! The County Supervisor Special Election is Tuesday, March 5. I am supporting Democrat Terry Dahms. PLEASE VOTE! *More on SEATS I continue to be frustrated by the ongoing discussions over SEATS. As far as I am concerned, Iowa City is attempting to demand that Johnson County radically alter the way it does business. This example should make the case pretty clearly. Please be advised – this is a HYPOTHETICAL situation. No one is considering shutting down SEATS! Hypothetically, the county closes SEATS. Just shuts it down. Iowa City and Coralville are still federally mandated to provide the service. To do so, they either need to raise taxes or cut services to the tune of $500,000. Why? Because Johnson County has been subsidizing the service! I don’t think it can be more clear! The cities continue to act as though SEATS exists in a vacuum. The JECC moved about $4 million annually from city budgets to the county levy. The cities’ use of TIF has taken $41 million out of the county coffers over the past 12 years. Yet the cities act as though neither ever happened. Let’s put these numbers into a perspective we can all understand. Imagine someone takes $415 from your wallet, then wants to quibble over whether they should pay you 2 dollars or 4 dollars for a sandwich. That is EXACTLY the scale here. The cities want to talk about the $2, and ignore the $415. I’d LOVE to sit down and discuss municipal finance with the cities. But they don’t want to do that. They want to focus on a very small piece of the whole picture. Iowa City continues to believe that because Iowa City is home to the most taxable value, residents of that city are paying too much. Understand – this is a new viewpoint that arrived with new staff. These same Councilors never expressed such concerns previously. Just for the sake of argument, let’s agree that we decide to fund things differently, and begin looking at which municipality pays what. Shouldn’t we ALSO then look at which municipality USES what? Say two families go out to dinner, and one is Iowa City and one is Lone Tree. Iowa City eats ten large pizzas and drinks 50 beers. Lone Tree eats one large pizza and drinks 5 beers. When the bill arrives, Iowa City pays 66%. Iowa City has its chest puffed out, proud that it paid over half the bill. The problem is, Iowa City ate and drank ten times what Lone Tree did. Even though IC paid more, they did not pay enough. The concept of fairness has two parts: what you pay, and what you use. Iowa City wants to base things ONLY on what you pay. That is not fair. Not only is the “Iowa City” model of county finance unfair, it fails on a couple additional fronts. As I have pointed out repeatedly, I have a strong feeling that Iowa City residents are net “takers” when it comes to county government. But to know that for certain, we would need to begin costing out everything. Thus the “Iowa City” model would dramatically drive up the cost of county government as we spend thousands of hours determining who should be charged for what. Plus, the “Iowa City” model is divisive. It takes us down a path of each individual taxpayer for herself. Fights are bound to occur between citizens who feel some other citizen got more or paid less. This is a path straight to ugliness. Historically, the county has done things pretty simply. Everybody pays for services, and everyone can access them. You pay county taxes, and get county services. From Sutliff to Joetown, from Swisher to Lone Tree - we are one county. We are all in this together. I like the fact that we are all in this together. I am in favor of some tinkering when it comes to who pays for what, but I refuse to be bullied into radical changes at Iowa City’s command. Again, I wish Iowa City staff would spend more time running Iowa City and less time trying to run Johnson County. As an Iowa City resident, I know they have plenty of issues to address. Meanwhile, I hope you like the idea of a single county with everyone in it together. I certainly do. *P&Z Stats The Johnson County Planning and Zoning Department does a very nice job. They recently provided us with their annual report (available on our website). I thought I would share a few interesting facts from this report: There were 458 building permits issued by Johnson County in 2012 – a 24% increase. The total value of that construction was over $37 million. The average new home in unincorporated Johnson County cost just over $335,000, up a few hundred dollars from 2011. Johnson County rezoned 95 acres in 2012, down from 163 in 2011. There were 88 acres of Ag land lost in 2012, compared to 109 gained in 2011. 128 acres were annexed into cities in 2012 – 109 into Coralville, and 19 into Solon. This is up from 11 acres in 2011. If you have questions, comments, or concerns regarding any of these numbers, please let me know! *Congrats Chief Rocca! Iowa City Fire Chief Andy Rocca recently announced his retirement after serving the people of Iowa City for over 30 years. I have had the pleasure of serving on a few committees with Chief Rocca, and always found him to be smart, hard working, and just a really nice man. Congrats on your retirement, Chief, and thank you for your service! *Prairie Preview The Johnson Country Heritage Trust announces the 30th Annual Prairie Preview will be held Thursday, March 7 at Parkview Church in Iowa City. The event begins at 6:30 pm with exhibits, and at 7:30 Professor Thomas Rosburg of the Drake Biodiversity Center will speak on “How Prairies Work”. There is a great deal of free information available, and refreshments are provided. The Prairie Preview is one of my favorite events. I hope you can join me! For more information, see or call 338-7030. *DID YOU KNOW? Local TIFs have cost Johnson County over $41 million in tax revenue over the past 12 years. 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. If you do NOT want the weekly E-mail, simply reply to this message, and type "unsubscribe" in the subject line. If you know anyone else who might be interested, just forward this message. They can E-mail me at with "subscribe" in the subject line. As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you! ---Rod


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