Webster County Supervisors consider construction at OHV park, possible rezoning costs

The Webster County Board of Supervisors held its first day of budget hearings Monday for fiscal year 2015.

The fiscal year begins on July 1 and ends June 30, 2015.

The heads of the county departments of recorder, auditor, information services, planning and zoning, emergency management, conservation and sheriff explained their proposed budgets for the upcoming fiscal year to the board for their consideration.

Webster County Sheriff Jim Stubbs requested a budget of $3,229,727 for his department, up from last year’s $3,118,915, an increase of $110,812 or about 3.5 percent.

Stubbs said some of the increase stemmed from the need to purchase new vehicles and equip them with electronics and cages.

“The last few years we bought new vehicles, but we’ve moved equipment over, and it’s just caught up with us,” Stubbs said. “We’re to the point where we can only move them so many times, or use them for so long.”

Also included in the proposal was $13,500 for a new dog for the K-9 unit. This dog would be trained to track, bite on command, and detect narcotics like the department’s current dog, Cayd.

Stubbs also discussed whether a cheaper solution could be found for meals at the Webster County Jail. Hiring a part-time cook would be a possibility, but will not be considered for this budget because it will require discussion with the union first.

The Webster County Conservation Board proposed a $1,268,385 budget, up from $1,021,163 last year, an increase of $247,222 or 24 percent.

Director Matt Cosgrove said this amount includes $150,000 for the local portion of a state and federal matching grant for campground construction at the Gypsum CIty Off Highway Vehicle Park. Without that large item, the increase from last year’s budget is only $97,222, or 9.5 percent.

Cosgrove said $100,000 would go to match an Iowa Department of Natural Resources grant of $100,000, and a federal grant of $300,000. The remaining $50,000 for the first portion of the campground has not yet been finished.

The campground project will be split into two construction pieces, and total about $1.2 million, he said.

Revenue from the conservation department is projected as $279,900, up from $272,650 in FY 2014. Cosgrove said this does not include increased revenue from the OHV campground, because it is not clear when the project will be finished.

The budget also calls for eliminating a secretary position, 20 hours per week and $11.78 per hour, with an office manager working 32 hours per week at $15 per hour.

About 23 percent of staff salaries are funded by other departments, such as the DNR, he said. The county has to budget all the money up front, but is reimbursed quarterly. That funding is included in the projected revenue.

Zoning Administrator Sheilah Lizer requested a $106,832 budget for the Planning and Zoning Board, from $84,137 last year. This is an increase of $22,695, or 27 percent.

That amount includes $20,000 for contracted services, which Lizer said was for an increase in notices and publications if the supervisors decide to update the zoning ordinance. Lizer said this was considered to specifically focus on the ag park called the Iowa Crossroads of Global Innovation.

“The last time I took out RFP’s (requests for proposals) $20,000 was the cheapest. It went up to $70,000,” Lizer said.

The lower number would only cover small changes.

“We don’t need a major rewrite, just some public hearings to take some input on those areas,” she said.

If that item is not included, the budget only increased by $2,695, or 3.2 percent.

County Recorder Judy Cosgrove proposed a budget of $356,024, up from $348,527 last year, an increase of $7,497 or 2.2 percent.

There was not much change, Cosgrove said. The costs of some printing and office supplies have gone up, and salaries will increase slightly.

County Auditor Carol Messerly proposed a budget of $621,405, up from $592,339 last year, an increase of $29,066 or 4.9 percent.

Messerly said her office will spend more because it is an election year this year, including hiring part-time help.

Director Andrew McGill requested a $541,661 for the Management of Information Services department. This is up from $497,716 last year, an increase of $43,945 or 8.8 percent.

McGill said the biggest part of the increase comes from updates to the county’s tax software. Instead of doing a big lump sum payment every four or five years, the software company now has gone to a “software assurance” program with a yearly fee.

The software will have a $48,000 install fee, and an annual fee of about $85,000 will cover both the tax software and the Eden payroll software.

Supervisor Clark Fletcher asked how important the updates were. Supervisor Merrill Leffler asked how well the software works, and if the county is likely to still be using it in five years.

McGill said the county has looked at other options, and this is the best one.

Messerly said the software is used to create the assessor’s book, then passes information to the auditor’s office, then is used by the treasurer in processing taxes.

“We’re using it all the time. It just works,” she said.

McGill said the upgrade didn’t have to be made this year, but it would become necessary sooner or later.

“We have put things off in previous years,” McGill said. “It seems like the longer we wait, it ends up costing us more.”

The department has also reduced costs in other areas, including a consolidation of servers, and retiring an outdated printer.