Updated: May 24
MOUND CITY – Well ahead of the customary annual budget review session that begins in July, the Linn County Commission on Monday, May 2, voted to cut about $285,000 in infrastructure grant funds to cities across the county. The commission also voted to stop paying for school resource officers for the three school districts in the county.
The suddenness of the move stunned officials from the cities that have received grants for the past several years and counted on the funds for their annual budgets.
At the commission meeting, County Clerk David Lamb explained that the fund was set up several years ago when the county received a second valuation notice from the state with a big increase in value on the new Enbridge pipeline structures in the county.
At that time, then Economic Development Director Dennis Arnold suggested that the county take one mill of the money from this windfall yearly and divide it among the cities by population to be used for infrastructure such as streets.
In 2022, Pleasanton received nearly $72,000, LaCygne over $68,000, Linn Valley more than $54,000, Mound City over $41,000, Prescott and Blue Mound about $16,500 each and a little over $16,100 for Parker.
James said that the county could save nearly $300,000 annually by not giving the cities this money.
“There might be a good reason to bring it back later but I think this year with the way everything’s gone as far as taxes and everything else. This is another way of helping out the taxpayer,” said James.
The move by the commission surprised many city officials.
“Everybody is in shock mode,” said Jodi Wade, La Cygne city clerk. The city is just now beginning a series of budget workshops in preparation for 2023.
In order to make up the loss of the funds, the city would need to increase its mill levy about 11 mills. One mill raises about $6,000 in revenue for the city.
Theresa Whitaker, Pleasanton city administrator, estimated that with property valuations on the increase, her city’s share of the windfall grant would increase to as much as $80,000. It takes one mill to raise about $7,000 in Pleasanton or an increase of 11 mills to replace the money.
“We all know eventually it will all come to an end,” she said. However, she added that it was surprising that there was no discussion between the commission and city officials. She said it was also surprising that there was little discussion among the three commissioners.
While Pleasanton uses the money to maintain streets, Whitaker said the city tries to stockpile the money to leverage larger federal grants for which the city qualifies. The city had already begun the budget process for 2023, counting on the county money. The process will need to start over, she said.
Mound City Mayor Wade Doering said the annual infrastructure grant had definitely made an impact on his city. The money was used for a sewer project to connect the ballfields and the splash park under construction on the west side of town to the city’s sewer system.
The city planned to use another round of the funds to build sidewalks around the elementary school, he said. That project may be on hold indefinitely because of the sudden decision to cut funds.
“It was definitely a surprise,” Doering said. He said he or another representative from the city plans to be one of several city officials from around the county that will attend the commission meeting next Monday.