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Supervisors approve county budget

“It’s been a difficult year.”

That’s what Dan Campidilli, chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors said Tuesday during a public hearing on the 2022 county budget. The board met in special session to approve the budget and other matters.

The supervisors voted on March 16 to increase the maximum tax levy for the county, citing a loss of revenue and an increase of expenses in the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At this time, the general basic levy is $3.50 but it can be exceeded for different circumstances,” said Campidilli on March 16. The general basic levy supports the vast majority of services provided to county residents. By exceeding the $3.50 maximum, Campidilli said it will allow the county to continue services, such as public health and public safety, as well as services provided through the auditor, treasurer and recorder’s offices and funds for those services as required by Iowa Code.

“We’ve been put in a position due to the pandemic, that our general basic fund, which covers many of the county’s expenses, has had holes punched in it left and right with lost revenue and added expenditures, “ said Campidilli.

“We wouldn’t be in this position if the word pandemic had not come into our vocabulary,” he said at the March 16 meeting.

With the shut down that started last March and the continuation of some restrictions on gathering sizes, several county departments experienced a major drop in revenue, Campidilli said.

Campidilli said public health has worked overtime for many months with testing and contact tracing for COVID-19, and with the addition of vaccine clinics. That has generated additional expenses. But the department has had to pare back many other programs due to concerns for COVID exposure, including in-home visits, which previously generated revenue.

“There’s really no way to recoup those dollars, so that comes out of the general fund,” he added.

The chairman said the Briggs Woods Conference Center was in line to see about $1.4 million in revenue with weddings, banquets and other events booked at the facility. With the COVID-19 restrictions, many of those events were cancelled or rescheduled to 2021 and beyond.

After reviewing the budget, he said Tuesday that it became obvious that the county would have to increase the levy to $4 per thousand. Campidilli said that a Hamilton County homeowner with a house valued at $100,000 would see an additional $29 in taxation due to the change.

The previous $3.50 cap had been in place since 1984 and the county has relied on valuations since that time. Campidilli said there were 25 counties in Iowa that exceeded the $4 cap even before the pandemic.

There will be no change to the general supplemental levy. The mental health levy is down slightly, he said. There will be a slight increase in the urban and rural levies, due to the increase in the general basic portion. There will also be a small decrease to the debt service levy.

The county will see no increase to its health care premiums for employees, which Campidilli said was due in large part to the county employees’ participation in a wellness program.

Property and liability insurance and workman’s compensation insurance premiums did increase, he said, by 10 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

“We’re going to do the best we can to keep things in line. I want to thank the staff,” he said. “They’re doing the best they can to hold down the costs and spending.”

The supervisors said they were uncertain as to whether the county will receive any American Rescue Plan funds.

The board also approved the compensation board recommendations for the salaries of elected officials. The compensation board suggested a 3 percent salary increase for elected officials, with stipends going to the auditor, recorder, treasurer, sheriff and supervisor’s chairman.

The Iowa Department of Transportation County Secondary Roads budget and construction plan were approved by the supervisors.

Ryan Weidemann, county engineer said the total budget for fiscal year 2022 was estimated to be $6,167,775. The 2022 projects include paving and resurfacing of portions of D41 from Highway 69 to Hardin County. That project will be completed with farm to market funds, he said. The plan also calls for four bridge replacement projects on Xircus Avenue just south of 370th Street; on Tollman Avenue just 2 miles south of Highway 175; on 230th Street just east of Tollman Avenue; and on Tucker Avenue north of D25.

The board also voted to support the voluntary annexation of property owned by Reveiz Farms from the county to the city of Webster City.

“They have property on South Beach Street and Wall Street,” he said. “We did not have any opposition to this.”

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