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Feb. 26--WATERLOO -- Black Hawk County is cutting taxes for the first time in 15 years.
Members of the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 which reduces overall property tax collection by $700,000, or just over 2 percent.
"It has been almost the turn of the century ... the last time there was a decrease in askings," said Finance Director James Bronner.
Property taxes fell every year from 1995 through 2000 thanks in part to property tax relief the Iowa Legislature provided for mental health care. State tax relief dollars played a key role this year too, as the county expects to get $560,000 to lower commercial and industrial tax bills.
Other reasons for a tax cut include eliminating the county youth shelter, which actually closed last year but had been included in the current year budget at $225,000; a major reduction in capital projects and information technology; and a small reduction in health insurance funding.
Staff reductions -- 12 youth shelter workers, an auditor's job, a building cleaner and the human resources director -- drove the county's number of full-time equivalent positions down to 619 jobs.
"This is the second-lowest FTE in well over 20 years for the county," Bronner said.
Salaries and benefits for employees overall were up 2 percent. That includes 2.75 percent pay raises for elected officials, department heads and nonunion workers, while most collective bargaining agreements carry 2.25 percent raises for the unionized work force.
The county's property tax rate for urban residents grows from $6.02 to $6.12 per $1,000 of taxable value. The rate paid by those outside of incorporated cities falls from $9.28 to $9.22 per $1,000, for taxes payable next fall.
A home in the city with an assessed value of $100,000 would see the county's share of the property tax bill grow from $318 to $333, or 4.7 percent, assuming that home's value was not changed by the county assessor. Some 44 percent of homes fell in value, which would lower the proposed tax increase.
Commercial and industrial properties, meanwhile, will see their county tax bill fall by nearly 3.5 percent thanks to the state tax relief measures.
Agricultural land would have realized a huge reduction in their county tax bills if land value did not change. But county officials noted the average farm property saw a nearly 40 percent jump in assessed value, which would essentially result in a net tax freeze.
"We hated to see the residential increase as much as it did, but we worked hard to get that to the level it is," said Supervisor Linda Laylin.
Supervisor Tom Little added, "There was some areas we didn't agree on, but we worked through the process, and the process worked."
There were no comments from the public during the budget hearing.
Black Hawk County accounts for about 19 percent of a property tax bill in Cedar Falls and 15 percent of the tax bill in Waterloo. City and school taxes are the lion's share of the overall bill.
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