Supervisors urge lawmakers to keep county budgets in local control

Legislation currently under consideration in the Iowa House and Senate could hinder local officials in making budget decisions, according to the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors. The supervisors voiced their concern Tuesday morning during the regular board session.

“The Legislature continues to slice away at local control,” said Board Chairman Doug Bailey. “At least that’s my opinion.

“We continue to be besieged by the Legislature regarding things that have always been under local control,” he said.

Bailey was referring to House File 773 which would place a 2 percent annual growth limitation on property tax revenue that a county or city could collect. Senate File 634 would place a cap at 0 percent growth, with the ability to go to 2 percent through a resolution or 3 percent subject to reverse referendum.

“These bills set arbitrary limits to what supervisors can establish the levies to be,”he said. “There’s no science to it; it’s arbitrary numbers.”

Bailey said he wasn’t sure where the bills would go, but they appear to be “catching some steam.”

“Local budgetary decisions should remain local, with the elected officials that live and work in the communities they represent, not with legislators making statewide decisions,” he said. “This doesn’t just affect counties. Cities will also be impacted.”

Bailey also pointed to the recently passed bill dealing with children’s mental health.

“A children’s mental health bill has been passed and that’s a really important step to take,” he said. “But there’s no funding for it. We want more services but there’s no mechanism to fund them. And then there’s this cap on how much we can levy.”

He said there were other examples of how the state is pulling control from local governments. He said the issue of transporting heavy raw forest products continues to survive in the current Legislative session.

“There seems to be little doubt that something will come of this,” he said. County Engineer Nicole Stinn explained the bill would allow vehicles and equipment hauling raw forestry materials to carry up to 130,000 pounds across Iowa roadways and bridges, many of which may be structurally questionable.

“It also had language in there that said the Iowa Department of Transportation would permit all of these loads, essentially taking away our local control of permitting and the local ability to analyze the structures for safety and longevity,” she said.

Stinn said an amendment added to the bill took away the 130,000 cap and put an axle weight limit on the vehicles.

“That’s ok, but now they can haul infinite loads as long as they meet the per axle limit,” she said.

Stinn said the bigger and perhaps more damaging change was the call for a centralized permitting system.

“Instead of going through the county to get a permit, anyone who needs a permit for any industry now, would go through the DOT,” she said.

The problem is there is no language about how to pay for the centralized permitting system or the cost of analyzing bridges, she said.

“It’s just all moving very quickly,” she said. “We urge area citizens to talk to their legislators about Senate File 629 and House File 777.”

Bailey said he hoped Hamilton County residents would contact Rep. Rob Bacon, House District 48, and Sen. Jerry Behn, Senate District 24, to also urge them to reject House File 773 and Senate File 634, and to support maintaining local government control.