WAPELLO — The growing number of unfunded mandates being passed onto counties by state politicians is continuing to upset county officials, including the Louisa County Board of Supervisors.
Supervisor Chris Ball raised the issue at the board’s Tuesday meeting during an update from meetings he attended the week before. Ball said a Tama County supervisor has launched the latest drive to hold state officials more accountable to county concerns over the financial impacts of state decisions.
“There’s getting to be quite a movement,” Ball said, explaining the latest discussion on the issue had come up during the April 10 Southeast Iowa Link (SEIL) meeting he had attended.
According to Ball, the Tama County supervisor was asking other county officials to commit to visiting state legislators to raise concerns over legislation involving unfunded mandates to counties.
“I think we should sign on to it,” he said, adding he wanted to have county attorney Adam Parsons review the action before the supervisors made any formal decision.
He said although the latest concern apparently focused on mental health programming, including a drive to begin a statewide children's mental health program, he said past or current efforts to provide veterans affairs programs and increased master matrix oversight were other examples of unfunded mandates passed to counties by the state.
“We’re at the bottom of the cycle here, and maybe we should voice our concerns,” Ball continued.
Supervisor Brad Quigley agreed, saying the state appeared to recognize the need and value of the programming but did not want to fund it.
“Anything they set down anymore they don’t have a way to fund it.” he said, pointing specifically to the children's mental health program as a prime example.
“They want to pass it, but they have nothing to fund it,” Ball agreed.
Later in the meeting when the two supervisors — supervisor Randy Griffin arrived afterward — met with mental health and disability director Bobbie Wulf for her monthly update, the unfunded mandate concern came up again.
Wulf pointed to state regulations that cap what counties can levy for mental health while also requiring them to spend down financial balances that were created when the state established a regional mental health system in Iowa as key issues.
She said Louisa County was currently capped at a per capita tax rate of $42.50, but that was too low.
“It needs to go up,” she told the supervisors, but the cap would not allow that.
Quigley said resolutions to those issues, along with resolving continuing problems related to the state’s privatization of Medicaid, were critical if the state also kept approving other unfunded mandates.
“I don’t understand why these pass without funding,” he said.
In other action Tuesday, the supervisors:
• Approved the four-lot Kerr Subdivision and the two-lot Skidmore subdivision.
• Received the monthly conservation board update from director Katie Hammond and the general assistance update from director Cyndi Mears.
• Agreed to allow Memory Lane Cruisers to use the courthouse lawn and make the courthouse restrooms available during the club’s Chief Wapello Days display.
• Received the weekly update from assistant county engineer Adam Shutt.