—by Story City Administrator Mark Jackson

A budget, and the process, is our annual opportunity to evaluate whether there are ways to sharpen our services and financial focus or to change it and include some new programs or services or eliminate some others. The budget serves as a financial and management plan that will enable the continuation of quality municipal services that the community has come to expect. In addition, this budget will again fund and facilitate goals as established by the Mayor and City Council. As always, there are numerous internal and external factors that will affect the budget during the year. Therefore, the budget should be treated as a "fluid" document that will change as the year progresses.

The economic trends reported daily in the national, state, and local news will influence us here in Story City. Actions at the State level including anticipated future IPERS rate increases along with the "rollback" of industrial and commercial property valuations will impact city expenditures and revenues. Industrial and commercial property values account for approximately 47 percent of the City’s property valuation. The 10 percent "rollback" in commercial and industrial property values over the next two years will have a significant impact on current and future City budgets.

The most significant change in the proposed FY 2014-15 budget is the recommendation to add an additional police officer. Story City added a "fifth" police officer in 1995. This was prior to a number of residential, commercial, and industrial economic development projects that took place in Story City including the Jacobson Park Subdivision and development east of Interstate 35 and since 1990 Story City’s population has grown by 16 percent. In addition, Story City has the fewest number of officers in comparison to cities of our size. With the growth, changing demographics, and nature of today’s police calls an additional police officer is warranted.

The question everyone wants to know is, "Are my taxes going up?" The tax levy rate is proposed to increase by 78 cents from $8.58 to $9.36. Using the Mayor and City Council as an overall example, property taxes would increase by an estimated $71.67. The proposed increase is primarily due to less than one percent growth (.7) in the city’s property tax valuation, from $230,059.482 in FY 2013-14 to $231,628,504 in FY 2014-15. This is a result of a combination of stagnant property values and the "rollback" from 100% to 95% of industrial and commercial taxable valuations. Although the State has agreed to reimburse cities for lost revenues in the first two years; past practice would indicate that the State does not always fulfill its promises.

The city’s tax levy rates since FY 2006-07 follow, and shows how Story City comparies to other Story County cities, plus 10 other cities the city typically benchmarks against (it should be noted that with the proposed increase in the tax levy rate, Story City would still have the second or third lowest property tax levy rate in Story County, and either the lowest or second to lowest in comparison to the other 10 cities we benchmark against):

FY 2006-07, $8.88 (increase of $48 for Rec Center); FY 2007-08, $8.77; FY 2008-09, $8.77; FY 2009-10, $8.62; FY 2010-11, $8.67; FY 2011-12, $8.50; FY 2012-13, $8.29; FY 2013-14, $8.58 (increase of $40.56 for water treatment plant).

Story County Tax Levy Rates FY 2013-14: Nevada, $15.33; Slater, $14.35; McCallsburg, $14.18; Colo, $12.24; Huxley, $11.84; Gilbert, $11.03; Zearing, $11.00; Ames, $10.86; Collins, $10.78; Roland, $10.08; Kelley, $9.22; Story City, $8.58; Cambridge, $8.00.

Benchmark Cities Tax Levy Rates FY 2013-14: LeClaire, $14.47; Adel, $14.06; West Liberty, $13.86; Carlisle, $13.80; Garner, $13.24; Tipton, $13.00; Sargeant Bluff, $12.81; Huxley, $11.84; West Burlington, $9.75; Dyserville, $9.11; Story City, $8.58.

The Story City Council adopted a resolution at its meeting on February 17 setting a public hearing on the proposed budget. The public hearing on the proposed Fiscal Year 2014-15 budget will be held on March 3 at 7 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers. Please contact the City Administrator should you have any questions.