The Dubuque County Board of Supervisors voted Monday night to lower the tax asking of county residents by $1.75 million for the next fiscal year.
The board voted unanimously to lower the fiscal year 2019 overall levy rate by about 36 cents to about $9.64 per $1,000 of valuation, instead of the approximately $10 rate that has been flat since fiscal year 2013. This was a larger decrease than Supervisor Daryl Klein proposed to Supervisors Dave Baker and Jay Wickham at a meeting last month, which did not get support at that time.
“Does it look like you can knock me over with a feather?” he asked his colleagues.
The supervisors voted, 2-1, to approve the $78.2 million fiscal year 2019 budget, which will take effect in July. The budget is projected to leave the county with an ending balance of about $20.7 million.
Dubuque County’s overall property tax values increased by 5.1 percent over the prior year, primarily due to assessed value changes in residential and agricultural parcels. Keeping the $10 levy rate would have given the county an extra $2.2 million in new tax revenue.
Klein proposed at a February meeting to lower the levy rate to $9.75 per $1,000, which would’ve reduced the tax asking by about $1.2 million. He noted the county usually has generated only about $1 million in new tax dollars each budget, and he’d like to continue that. At that time, Wickham and Baker wanted to wait until more numbers were finalized.
Wickham on Monday said he now was comfortable the county could reduce its tax asking further. The 36-cent drop would come from the county’s supplemental levy, which is highly restricted in use to items like employee benefits and election expenses.
“It doesn’t mean we won’t have to raise it sometime in the future, but in the next year to two years generally the levy can be very similar to that,” Wickham said.
Klein agreed that this would have to be understood as a temporary reprieve while valuations are unusually high.
While Klein favored the drop in the tax asking, he voted against the budget because he disagreed with the amount of grants the county doled out to community groups and nonprofits, including $300,000 to fund Mercy Turning Point’s medication-assisted treatment program after federal grants expire.
He said while he agreed many of those grants were for worthy causes, he didn’t see it as the county’s place to fund social services. Residents Wayne Demmer (a former county supervisor) and Curt Kiessling (a former supervisor candidate) agreed with Klein’s concerns during public comment.