WAPELLO — A nearly $112,000 increase over the current budget, most of it tied up in a designated reserve, is proposed in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget for the Louisa County Assessor’s Office.
The Louisa County Conference Board approved the proposed $553,083 spending plan for publication during a scheduled meeting on Tuesday. Assessor Cathy Smith said the budget would include an increase in the property tax levy from the current nearly 52¢ per $1000 taxable valuation to just under 63¢ per $1000.
Smith pointed to the pending retirement of her chief deputy Debbie Moore, expected sometime after October; a new hire; and legal fees relating to a lawsuit filed by the Two Rivers Levee and Drainage District as some of the significant reasons for the increase. The lawsuit apparently was to challenge an earlier ruling by the board of review.
In her budget proposal, Smith included $30,000 for legal counsel/defense of assessments, which a significant amount could go toward the current lawsuit; $29,741 for the new hire and $54,361 to cover Moore’s salary until her retirement and any payout for unused vacation, comp time and other accumulated time.
In addition to those changes, Smith reminded the conference board members that her office was in the third year of saving for two five-year projects. One is a commercial/industrial revaluation, which was last conducted in 1995; and the second is to fund new aerial photography, which was last done in 2013.
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The new budget shows a $104,400 reserve for those activities, with plans to eventually raise that amount to $174,000 in the next two years to use toward those projects.
The conference board will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget on March 3 at 4:30 p.m. in the assessor’s office in the Louisa County Courthouse, Wapello. The board is expected to act on the budget after the public hearing. It must be certified to the county auditor by March 15.
In other action during the meeting, Smith reported that board of review member Von Smith had resigned, leaving a vacancy for a six-year term that will expire on Dec. 31, 2021. The board discussed possible replacements, but tabled any decision until the March 3 meeting.
A motion to allow hiring outside counsel for a possible appeal of the lawsuit with the levee and drainage district was also approved. In a related decision, the board also approved paying $75 per day to board of review member Scott Heater for three days spent testifying and preparing for the trial, which was held in November.
Board of review members are paid $75 per day when the board meets to review tax assessment appeals and conduct other business, although the conference board also agreed Tuesday to increase that rate to $100 per day.
The conference board is composed of three sets of elected officials, who all serve for local governments with property taxing powers: the board of supervisors, the four school districts headquartered in the county and the mayors of the incorporated cities and towns in the county.