County is looking at a tight budget

Supervisors warn of no increases and possible reductions for departments

Benton County Courthouse

VINTON – As revenues are expected go go down, the Benton County Board of Supervisors expects to tell department heads to have no increases in the budgets for next year, and possibly look at ways to reduce their budget.

“I can’t see where we can afford to have any increases,” said Board Chairman Richard Primmer said as the board and Auditor Hayley Rippel discussed preliminary work on the 2021 department budgets, at their meeting Tuesday, Nov. 19, in Vinton.

Primmer added, “I’m just afraid we may have to look at ways to decrease.” A letter will be sent to all department heads as they prepare for next year’s budget. Rippel said most department heads want to have some guidance before they start. Usually the departments submit their expected budget numbers, and then the department heads meet with the supervisors on their budget.

Primmer suggested putting into that letter that the county has had to dip into its reserves, and the county is not highly diversified in its tax base.

“It sounds like we’re going to have less money to work with,” Primmer observed. He also suggested the departments look for ways to cut their budgets. He wanted to keep the employee contribution to health insurance the same, while possibly not raising wages. The county won’t know insurance rates until January, according to Rippel.

“If you can reduce your budget, we won’t have to pick it apart,” said Supervisor Tracy Seeman as a message to department heads in the board’s letter. The reasons, Seeman said, are that the county does not have the revenue coming in, and they can’t keep dipping into the reserve. A letter will be sent later.

Volunteer program

Sheila Hlas of the Benton County Volunteer Program presented the program’s budget request for 2020-21. She thanked the board for their continued support of the program. Program goals dealt with health and social engagement, as well as safety and mobility. Services are used to meet these goals, such as medical transportation assistance, food programs, human outreach, Tree of Sharing, project groups, comfort pillows and assistance at the food pantry.

The program serves around 12,000 residents in every community and service area, except Walford, Hlas said. They work to be a pioneer in volunteer programs. She pointed out the program started in 1974 in the Belle Plaine area. They collaborate with Benton County Transportation, the food pantry, area schools, veterans’ affairs and Keystone Home Health Care.

The biggest success, she said, is having Benton County residents work together to help their fellow residents of ages, regardless of financial status, to live independently and stay in Benton County.

She requested continuation of funding at $25,000. Primmer noted afterwards the volunteer group is not asking for increase, and they use the money wisely. No action was taken.

Other business

Alexandria Fox was approved as a part-time corrections officer at the sheriff’s office. Beginning hourly wage is $14.62. After 120 days and training, the wage is $16.92.

The board acknowledged the resignation of Tony Thomsen as medical examiner. They approved Matthew Fults as his replacement.

A Class B Liquor License was approved for Kimm’s Sinclair.

The second tier canvass of the city/school election was approved. The post-election audit was certified.

Karen Phelps of Benton County Conservation updated the board on the department’s cell phone use, as well as the bidding process for a dump truck, and proposed sale of one-acre plots of conservation land. Neighboring farmers are interested in buying these plots. They hope to use money from the sale for land acquisition. They are also looking at the sale of the Atkins roundhouse property.

Adam Rodenberg of Middle Cedar Watershed Management Authority updated the board on projects in Tama County and the City of Vinton.

A utility permit was approved for Poweshiek Water Association in St. Clair Township.

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