Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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February 23, 2017

Sullivan’s Salvos     2/28/17

In this edition:

*GOP Lies
*GOP Cruelty
*Budget Highlights
*Did You Know?

*GOP Lies
Ankeny State Senator Jack Whitver, writing in the Des Moines Register: “Senate Republicans want to make sure Iowa’s state and local governments have the tools necessary to provide services while executing their responsibilities effectively and efficiently for the Iowa taxpayer. It is imperative we are always looking at ways to make the public sector more nimble, economically sound and responsive to the needs of Iowans throughout the state.”

         What a load of crap! If Whitver REALLY wanted us to have “tools” and be “nimble”, there is NO WAY he would support HF295, which guts local control.

         There are plenty of lies being told by Republicans in the Iowa Legislature, but this statement is so mendacious that it deserves to be called out separately for being such a bold lie.

*GOP Cruelty
         I am not a big fan of the lies, but I am even more upset by the cruelty of Republicans in the Iowa Legislature. Some take great joy in hurting others, simply because they can.

         I honestly hope they see the light. The world does not need more cruelty. These folks are going to be judged some day, and I do not mean by the voters of Iowa.

         We have Trump in the White House and Republicans in the Iowa Statehouse hell bent on hurting regular people. I am attempting to determine how to proceed in our new reality; you may be doing the same. After considerable thought, I have decided on emphasizing accountability.

         What does that mean? I am going to redouble my efforts to ensure accountability at every turn. I am going to hold myself accountable. I am going to hold my friends accountable. I am going to hold my governments accountable.

         I do not want the next four years to pass with questions as to what might have been. When I look back, I want to be able to say I did what I could. I am going to demand accountability. I hope you will join me!

*Budget Highlights
The FY18 budget is finished, and frankly, it is pretty tight. There are many things I would like to do that we simply can’t afford. If you want to blame someone, blame every Iowa Legislator who voted for the Commercial Property Tax cuts of a few years ago.

How are those changes affecting you? A residential property in Iowa City will see a 3.1% increase in County tax askings this year. Commercial property taxes in Iowa City are only going up about .7%. A property zoned multiresidential (apartments, mobile home parks, nursing homes) will go down 17.2%. The taxes have been shifted from these businesses to residential payors. Frankly, I think this is tragic.

The Public Hearing on the County Budget is Thursday, February 23 at 5:30 PM in the Boardroom at the County Administration Building. As always, the public is welcome. A few highlights:

Perhaps the biggest news is that the County Attorney’s Office is likely moving out of the Courthouse. While we do not yet have a formal agreement, the plan is to move that office across the street to the new MidWest One building. Again, we do not have an agreement yet, but we have set aside funds that should allow us to begin negotiations.

This move is critical. The Courthouse has been undersized for 40 years. The legal system in Johnson County is broken. Justice delayed is justice denied, and unfortunately, justice here is delayed. Johnson County is entitled to additional judges and other court staff, but we have never had anywhere to put them. Voters had an opportunity to fix this, and while 56% voted yes, we did not get the magic 60%. So we must do something different. While moving the County Attorney will make things decidedly more awkward for that office, it should greatly improve access to the courts for the people of Johnson County.

         The Board once again chose to invest heavily in the Ambulance Service. We are adding an additional truck and many more man-hours. These investments should allow us to maintain our response times while dealing with a rapidly increasing call volume.

         The Board set aside $1 million to get started on a Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) facility. CIT, you may recall, is a training that local law enforcement officers are undergoing. The idea is to divert people from the jail and emergency room. The training works, but in order to divert folks from these two places, officers need another alternative. Right now, that alternative does not exist. We do not have a location identified, nor do we have a design. But we will likely need this money in order to get started on something during FY18.

         The public voted overwhelmingly for the Conservation Bond in 2008. FY18 will see several large projects funded in part by the bond. This was a bit of a mixed bag – Johnson County secured millions in matching grants for these projects, from a variety of sources. The problem is, we were forced to do much of it this year or forfeit the matching money. So FY18 will see the creation of a wetland mitigation bank, lake restoration at Kent Park, and work on the Hoover Trail, which will connect Iowa City to Cedar Rapids via North Liberty and Solon.

         Road projects are always a big part of the budget, and FY18 will be no exception. Expect to see major projects on 965, IWV, and Ely Road.

         The overall budget is about $110,000,000, down two million from a year ago. Per our policy, we will end FY18 with 30% of our tax askings in reserve. And even though we are looking to bond for about $18,000,000, our level of indebtedness at the end of FY18 drops to about $10,000,000. (Our limits would allow borrowing up to $600m!)

         Those are some of the FY18 budget highlights. Obviously, these descriptions are very brief. If you want to know more about these or any other topics, please give me a call.

*DID YOU KNOW?  Contrary to what you hear all the time, property tax rates in Johnson County are NOT particularly high. Out of Iowa’s 99 Counties, Johnson County ranks: #31 in General Fund rate, #47 in Rural Fund rate, and #33 in General + Rural. (Source: Iowa State Association of Counties.)

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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