Paul Toot, chairman of the Story County Board of Supervisors, released the State of the County report on March 19.
The full report, which reviews highlights from 2013 and priorities for 2014, can be viewed or listened to at the county’s website: www.storycountyiowa.gov. It can be found under the “Your Government — Board of Supervisors — State of the County” tabs.
Toot reports that transparency in day-to-day operations, remaining fiscally responsible and continuing practices that reduced overall spending and provided a lower tax levy without sacrificing services were main goals of 2013. He said in 2014, the Board of Supervisors will continue to support common-sense policies and measures.
The report reviews the following: county buildings and grounds, intergovernmental coordination, economic development, emergency response, infrastructure and equipment purchases and improvements, budgeting and finances, planning and new service initiatives and public outreach.
The newspaper would highlight a few things in the report as follows:
* The county is in the process of installing a new digital phone system which will, among other things, strengthen disaster recovery operations. “Since it is hosted off-site, it allows various locations to be used even if buildings are damaged or destroyed,” the report states. All county buildings are also now installed with wireless Internet.
* The county utilizes tax increment financing (TIF) to fund projects it believes would otherwise be difficult or impossible to finance. The vast majority of TIF funds come from the many wind turbines located through the county. Last fall, the following projects were awarded funds: city of Collins, $20,000 for improvements to the city’s new Main Street Community Wellness Center; Colo-Nesco School District, $45,000 to assist in the construction of a playground at the school in Zearing; city of Kelley, $10,750 for construction of an enclosure for the city’s mailboxes, since Kelley no longer has a post office; city of McCallsburg, $65,000 to assist in the financing of the city’s water improvement project; city of Roland, $6,950 for asbestos abatement of the building slated as the future Roland City Hall and city of Zearing, $11,500 for Main Street facade improvements.
* Through a public/private funding arrangement, bike lanes were installed and paved along Country Club Road south of the city of Nevada. The 1.7-mile stretch of improvements cost $420,000 and funding came from the following sources: $200,000 from Story County, $127,231 from CIRPTA (with a grant acquired by Story County), $25,000 from the city of Nevada; $25,000 from the Kinney Lindstrom Fund; $10,200 from the Tope Foundation; $5,000 from the UP Railroad and additional money from private donations.
* The county also points out its support of the largest TIF project in the county, the Dakins Lake Improvement Project just north of Zearing. When completed, the park will include 20 acres of open water in two lakes, a new 30-site campground, a showerhouse, a boat ramp, a boat dock, a fish cleaning station, two fishing jetties, a picnic shelter, a natural playscape and two miles of hiking trails.
* Story County’s annual budget is approximately $40 million. July 1 will mark the second year in a row where projected expenditures and revenues matched at the start of the fiscal year. Over the past three years, Story County has been able to cut almost $6 million in spending without sacrificing services. For fiscal year 2015, the county was able to reduce the countywide tax levy from $5.82/$1,000 of assessed valuation to $5.39 — the lowest rate in 10 years.
Toot said he is often asked, “What keeps you up at night?” And other than his 15-year-old son, he said the answer he gives is the ongoing transformation of mental health services. “As we moved to the state-mandated regional system in fiscal 2015, serving those citizens who need our assistance the most while continuing to provide uninterrupted service at existing levels continues to be our top priority.” It was noted in the report that Story County and nine other counties have established the Central Iowa Community Regional Governance Board, chaired by Story County Supervisor Wayne Clinton. As of July 2015, all mental health dollars will pass through the counties and finance the region’s treasury. Regionalization means significant changes to the current county-run programs and services.