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Assessor's budget to rise 4-plus percent

BY DANIEL SEIDL | FEBRUARY 07, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Iowa City Assessor’s proposed budget for fiscal 2015 was the main topic of discussion for the Iowa City Assessor’s Conference Board at a Thursday meeting.

The budget totals $890,965, an increase of 4.47 percent from the fiscal 2014 budget. The proposal was approved by 10-0 vote.

The city released its comprehensive annual financial report for fiscal 2013 on Thursday. The report showed $179,333,000 of total revenue for the city in that year, with only $115,204,000 in expenses β€” creating more than a $64 million surplus.

A surplus isn’t unusual, said City Councilor Susan Mims, noting that the city has a budget surplus nearly every year. Mims said because property taxes aren’t collected until later in the fiscal year, the city needs revenue from the previous fiscal year to cover expenses until the taxes are collected. Additionally, city officials over-budget in case of unexpected costs.

“Some of that surplus is simply necessary for cash flow,” she said. “Part of it is simply, you need a cushion.”

This type of surplus is also reflected in the assessor’s budget. Though the total is more than $890,000, only $732,673 will be raised by taxation. The rest will come from a surplus of last year’s budget, said Iowa City Assessor Dennis Baldridge.

“There is some carryover from the previous year,” he said.

This carryover totals over $158,000, enough to cover the remainder of the budget.

The increase to this year’s budget was also discussed. This can mainly be attributed to two particular items, postage β€” which saw a 366.67 percent increase β€” and printing costs, which saw a 400 percent increase. These significant increases can be attributed to assessment rolls, Baldridge said, which are only printed every other year.

Salary expenses will also rise, as employees of the assessor’s office will increase by an average of 4.39 percent.

Of this increase, 2.125 percent was the average increase based on merit.

Though this isn’t an unusual increase, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, who were present at the meeting, said they will lower merit increases during the next fiscal year.

The county will be capping its merit increases at 2 percent, said Supervisor Chairwoman Janelle Rettig. Though the city will not be held to this same cap, the councilors agreed with the supervisors’ thought process on the decision.

“You have to look at how we’re doing salaries and wages so that they are fair to the employees and also reasonable to the taxpayers,” Mims said.

Councilor Jim Throgmorton also agreed with the council’s stance, noting that the change would help prevent salaries from snowballing out of control.

“I think it’s wise to try to manage the increase in salaries wisely because consistently large salary increases can balloon over time,” he said.

The council set a public meeting to discuss the proposed assessor’s budget on March 4.


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