As a result of the national housing slump, County Assessor Bill Greazel and County Treasurer Tom Kriz informed County Supervisors and other officials Thursday that residential and commercial property valuations are expected to stay flat.
One has to wonder how the valuations will remain flat and not drop, especially considering the national average is at a decline of about 9 percent according to most reports. New construction in the area is also slowing down, further complicating the financial picture.
So what does this mean? In a time when County Supervisor and Chairman Rod Sullivan and Co-Chair Terrance Neuzil have approved a $20 million Conservation Bond issue for some bike trails to go on the November ballot, they should have been considering how they're going to pay for projects already on the books. When assessments are determined early next year, the revenue won't be what Sullivan and Neuzil had hoped for. It's going to logically mean tough budget decisions for our county leaders.
"We may be saying to taxpayers, there is a lower level of service," supervisor Sally Stutsman said at the Thursday briefing. Sally Stutsman also approved putting the Conservation Bond issue - which vaguely proposes things like bike trails - on the general election ballot.
Something to keep in mind, the Conservation Bond issue was NOT something that Joe Johnson County Resident petitioned for. Nobody was out knocking on doors asking you to sign a petition asking for the county to buy up unspecified lands for unspecified uses. No, the County Supervisors themselves put this on their agenda and on the ballot. And according to Iowa Code, they had to power to take it off the table if residents asked. Given the floods and economic conditions, the Supervisors were asked to take the bond issue off the table in June, they arrogantly refused.
So given current conditions, how prudent was it for Supervisors Rod Sullivan and Terrance Neuzil (Chair and Co-Chair), to propose and/or approve project after project after project, taking millions and millions of dollars out of resident's pockets. Did Supervisors Sullivan and Neuzil care to ask the common sense question, "What if things get bad?"
Sullivan has been a huge advocate for a new Health and Human Services Building - projected price tag: $12.1 million. To be fair some funds were set aside for this project. What? It was actually budgeted for? My goodness that makes too much sense! Government did that? But the project isn't complete yet and PLEASE NOTE that this was budgeted for prior to Mr. Sullivan's time on the board. County Treasurer Kriz has stated however that we would continue to pay for this facility for about five more years.
Sullivan and Neuzil approved a new Joint Communications Center - Projected price tag: $22 million. These costs have already exceeded the original estimate of $17 million. Property taxes have been raised as a result of this project and County Supervisors are now looking to sell bonds to make up the balance. Yep, another tax hike. This cost does NOT include additional operational expenses taxpayers will have to cough up to run the place once the building is complete.
A new Conservation Headquarters/Maintenance Facility - Projected price tag: $1 million taxpayer dollars. County Supervisors approved the issuance of General Obligation Bonds not to exceed $1.2 million. This facility was needed, but why wasn't it planned for then in the budget? Are County Supervisors mortgaging our future?
New SEATS Facility - The estimated total cost of the Johnson County SEATS and Secondary Roads Office Building is $1,980,300 and the estimated total cost of the Garage Structure is $1,056,300. That's your money. The question is, was this facility needed this year?
County Jail - Projected price tag: An estimated $61.2 million to $76.5 million, which includes a combined facility with courtrooms. Who is paying for it? You are.
County Courthouse - Projected price tag: See 'County Jail' above, but if the combo doesn't work, how much? It's your money being bantered about.
And in spite of the Flood of 2008, Johnson County Supervisors put the Conservation Bond Issue on the November ballot - Price tag: $20 million Johnson County taxpayer dollars. This does NOT include additional costs for development of lands purchased, such as bike trails or parks (we don't know, they won't tell us the intended uses, there are no details, no business plan to speak of). This does NOT include unforseen/additional costs for maintaining the lands purchased. What land? Where and how much? How is it to be used? They won't tell us.
So, in light of all these expenditures that County Supervisors want YOU to pay for, did the Supervisors arrogantly think Johnson County would always enjoy economic growth as long as they were in charge? AS IF Mother Nature doesn't happen? AS IF economic conditions don't change?
It seems our leaders have the *wisdom* of grasshoppers, not ants.
"I'm Michael D. Thayer, and I approve the removal of Rod Sullivan from office."