Practice needs policyCouncil to work on draft governing special assessments
During a special work session that will be held March 27 in the Washington Public Library, the Washington City Council will discuss forming a written policy to cover special assessments.
City administrator Brent Hinson explained special assessments is a process the city uses when a special project is being done. He said the theory is that certain taxpayers will get more benefit from projects — such as street projects in front of their houses — than others. He said the city assesses the taxpayers who receive more benefit a higher share of the tax burden of the project than the public as a whole.
“It is a widespread practice and it is something that the city has used a lot in the past,” Hinson said. “Special assessments can be a controversial topic, so it is important the council understands the theory of why we are doing it.”
He told the council that the most important part of the process of designing a policy for special assessments is that it will be fair to everyone. Hinson said that the city hasn’t had a written special assessment policy in the past.
Hinson said that most Iowa towns that use special assessments don’t have a written policy. He said Dubuque was the only Iowa town he found that had a written policy.
“My general philosophy is that if you have a complex issue or anything you have to be consistent with the public on in the future, put it in writing,” Hinson said. “It helps you stay more consistent and it gives you something if someone asks what your policy is.”
During Wednesday’s meeting, the city council received a rough draft of a special assessment policy. Hinson said the most important thing is for the policy to be well thought out and to be applied evenly. Hinson said the draft of the policy gives taxpayers who receive special assessments 10 years to pay the assessment and standardizes the interest rate.
Hinson said the city hadn’t examined the practice since the last special assessment project was done in 2007, which was before many of the current council members joined the council.
In other business, the council:
• heard a request from Parkside Estates owner Russ Miller for assistance with water supply to the trailer park;
• discussed a request from Modern Eye Care for two additional handicapped parking spaces;
• approved a request to hold the Above and Beyond 5k run from 10 a.m. to noon April 13;
• approved a farm lease agreement with Duane Redlinger that is part of the “land swap” deal;
• approved a revised agreement to purchase a street sweeper;
• approved changes to the city’s insurance policy;
• approved Mike Kramme to be appointed to the library board and Joan Hippen to the cable commission;
• approved establishing a new account for water and sewer capital projects;
• held a public hearing to issue $250,000 in general obligation capital notes, then approved the measure;
• discussed plans for the South Iowa mill and overlay project; and
• approved requests from the cemetery department, library, and parks department to apply for Washington County Riverboat Foundation grants.