County budget approved
The Washington County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing and approved the county budget for fiscal year (FY) 2014-15 during the weekly meeting this morning.
According to a Washington County valuation/levy rate comparison prepared by budget director Cyndie Sinn, 100 percent assessed valuations increase 18.14 percent for rural valuations and 0.91 percent for urban valuation from FY 2013-14. The total valuation increased 10.71 percent.
However, Sinn said, “ Our assessed rural valuations have risen substantially, but by the time the state rolled them back, it was actually a very minimal valuation increase.”
The rural rollback increased 1.44 percent from a year ago, and the urban rollback increased 9.29 percent, for a combined total valuation of 4.62 percent over a year ago.
The total countywide levy in urban areas will decrease 5.51 percent, and the total rural levy will decrease 3.53 percent.
The total property tax asking decreased 0.73 percent from $8,754,041 in FY 2013-14 to $8,690,409 for FY 2014-15.
The only public comment during the hearing was from county engineer Jacob Thorius, who asked if the commercial and industrial rollbacks approved last year by the Iowa Legislature were in the budget.
Sinn said that the rollbacks are included and about $70,000 will come back to the county from the state.
The supervisors approved the budget.
Thorius recommended the supervisors approve the lowest of two bids to replace the bridge deck on W55 over Crooked Creek, located approximately six miles from Washington.
He said that Iowa Bridge and Culvert of Washington submitted the low bid of $1,014,893. The high bid, $1,120,908, came from Cramer and Associates of Des Moines. The work was estimated to cost about $1 million, Thorius said. The funds for the project will come from federal and state funds. The work is expected to take about 120 days to complete and the bridge will be closed to the public when work begins.
Thorius also asked the board to approve policy and procedure for the use of county roads for special events, such as parades, races, ceremonies, and other events that are not typical uses.
Thorius said he has been working on a request form for over a year. He said the policy would provide better communications between the county and the people or organization wanting to use roads for special events. He also said the policy would protect county liability. The board of supervisors would have final say on a request, after it passes from the secondary roads, the sheriff’s office, and the county auditor’s office.
In his remarks made to the board, Thorius referred to a bicycle accident that happened in Crawford County during RABRAI™.
Cyclist Richard Gilmore said, “I find the Crawford County to be completely bogus brought up with county roads and liability. There have been 40 years of RAGBRAI™ — over half a million people. We had one incident.”
Gilmore said cyclists who participate in the bike race he runs are responsible for obeying the law.
“They are on the road legally,” he said. “I will not give up my rights to ride on the road responsibly just like everyone else.”
Thorius also recommended updating the Washington County Easement Payment and Fence Payment Policy, which has been in place for years. The policy sets the amount that property owners will be paid should the county need additional right of way easements. It also sets the payment for damages involving fences on property acquired by easements for public highways.
The supervisors approved his recommendation.
The final action the board took was to approve an amended agreement to purchase the services of Hillcrest Family Services for the Washington County Mental Health Center. Hillcrest will provide round-the-clock hospital emergency room services.
Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. said the change will provide better services for people locally.
Supervisors Richard Young said the county would save “a lot of money.”
The supervisors’ next meeting is set for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 18, in the county courthouse.