Friday, May 24, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
The Polk County Board of Commissioners last week approved a citizens committee's recommendation to seek an operating levy in the November 2013 election.
February 19, 2013
POLK COUNTY -- Polk County residents more than likely will be asked to increase their property taxes to support law enforcement -- but not until November.
The citizens' committee formed to explore placing an operating levy on the ballot has issued a partial recommendation favoring a three-year levy at an amount not to exceed 60 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on properties.
The committee, which has met twice, didn't take long debating whether a levy was necessary to support services.
"I don't think there was any discussion centered around whether the county needed to go out for a levy," County Administrator Greg Hansen said last week. "The next decision was whether to put it on the upcoming May election or the November election. They decided the May election was coming too fast."
The committee will continue to discuss the amount, agreeing to meet one more time before making a final decision. Hansen said committee members wanted more details on the plan to give Polk County cities levy funding in exchange for an officer being assigned to the Polk County Interagency Narcotics Team (POINT). At 60 cents per $1,000, the levy would raise $2.9 million a year.
There is a downside to waiting until November because if the levy passes additional taxes couldn't be collected until the 2014-15 fiscal year.
That means in 2013-14, the county will face an $800,000 to $1 million deficit and may have to cut eight to 10 positions, including five patrol deputies and one prosecutor.
"I don't see how we are not going to have significant layoffs," Hansen said.
Nevertheless, a majority of committee members chose November because they believed it would be difficult to put together an effective levy campaign in time for the May election.
The Polk County Board of Commissioners approved the committee's recommendation last week, but the board still has to vote to place the levy on the ballot.
"I believe the May 2013 ballot is way too early," Commissioner Craig Pope said. "It would be a monstrous undertaking to put it on the ballot in May."
That more than likely leaves the county in the ironic position of having to cut from the very agencies in July it hopes to support with a levy in November.
The only member of the citizens' committee who wanted to seek a levy in May, Jean Sherbeck, said she was concerned with the impact the layoffs would have, even if they were temporary.
"What kind of service would you have with these cuts?" she asked at the Feb. 12 board of commissioners meeting. "Would you call it ineffective?"
Pope said while he wouldn't call the service "ineffective," he did acknowledge the cuts would hurt. He said the county is in danger of losing 24-hour patrol and POINT with the impending cuts.
But he said it would be imprudent to put levy supporters in the position to have to rush to put together a campaign. Commissioner Mike Ainsworth agreed.
"The only way to do it the right way is in November," Ainsworth said.