Supervisors moving forward on maximum property tax levy for ’24
The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors has taken the first steps on setting the maximum property tax levy for the 2023-24 budget year.
At the meeting March 14, the supervisors held a public hearing on the resolution. Under the resolution, the maximum property tax levy for the general fund would be $3.50 per $1,000 valuation, general supplemental would be $3.20 per $1,000 valuation, rural basic, $3.95 per $1,000 valuation, and 70 cents per $1,000 valuation on supplemental basic.
During the public comment period, the supervisors heard from Red Oak resident Ray Simmons, pastor of Ascension Reformed Church, who voiced his concerns about the raise in the property tax levy.
“We chose Montgomery County to settle down, and while there are many positives, one of the negatives was property taxes. We have had five families move in from out of state, and they are looking for freedom and low taxes,” Simmons said. “I know you’re in a difficult situation, but I think you’re in a situation where you need to cut some programs. As you do that, we will be praying for you, because I know that’s a difficult thing to do.”
The supervisors also heard comments from Caleb Kull, who moved last fall from Wyoming, a state with no income taxes and low property taxes. Kull also expressed dissatisfaction with the property taxes.
“I like it here, but I probably should have done more homework on the tax side of things. Since I moved here, I’ve paid for license plates and vehicle taxes, which are high. The sales tax is quite high, and the state income tax is quite a bit as well,” Kull stated. “The property taxes are really high. I couldn’t believe it when I bought a little place and I was paying so much. We have the 10th highest property tax rate in the country in the state of Iowa, and when I looked into it, Montgomery County had the sixth highest property tax rate.”
Kull said he’s looking to build a new home, but as he determines a design, much of his calculation is based on what he will be taxed at.
“I want to build a nice house, but I don’t know what they’re going to assess me at. When you do a little research, you find you can’t afford to build too big, or you’ll be up to $6,000 a year in taxes easily. Our labor force isn’t that great, we have the highest inflation in a generation, and now isn’t the time to be raising taxes,” commented Kull.
Supervisor Donna Robinson advised the audience that the supervisors were aware of the property tax rates and were also affected by the high rates.
“Everybody sitting at this table pays property tax of some form; be it a home, or farm ground. When we make these decisions, it affects our pocketbook as well. It’s a matter of figuring out how to provide services adequately, and do the best we can with the dollars we have been given,” Robinson commented.
Replying to Simmons’ comment, Robinson said a reduction in services was always a consideration, but the results were mixed.
“I think it would probably be a flip of the coin as to which is less popular: raising taxes or reducing services. It’s a tough call,” said Robinson.
Supervisor Mark Peterson said the inflation rate the county was facing for the year, which was out of the county’s control, put the county in a difficult spot, and it even affected the county’s insurance rates
“We managed to hopefully get our health insurance costs cut back, but if we’d stayed with the company we were with, they wanted a 19% increase in one year, which is crazy. All insurance rates have been affected,” advised Peterson.
Supervisors Chair Mike Olson weighed in on the situation, and stated that a lot of the county’s services are mandated.
“The State of Iowa and the federal government mandates many things for this board that we have to fund, by law, or we don’t get any state or federal funds on the back side. Other than secondary roads and law enforcement, we’re pretty well tied on what we can cut and can’t cut,” explained Olson. “Things have come down over the years that we have to do, and they just keep coming. Also, we don’t have wind or solar farms, so we’re limited to what we can collect in revenue to property tax and state and federal aid. Are we going to get wind and solar farms? Maybe. But those things are in the future, and it makes things for this board very hard.”
Robinson also stated that as they went through the budget process, they have budgeted against compensation board recommendations on raises for elected officials and departments.
“We rarely over the past few years have given a significant raise. We’re trying to do our best to compensate and reward our employees within reason, and allow them to feel appreciated,” Robinson said.
County Auditor Jill Ozuna closed out the discussion that while the supervisors were voting on the maximum property tax levy that could be collected, in all likelihood, the true rate would be less, and it usually was.
The supervisors approved the resolution for the maximum property tax levy as presented.