With the legislative session just around the corner, change is on the horizon for many Iowa counties.
Supervisors from about 20 counties met in Ottumwa Friday morning to discuss their priorities moving forward into 2014. Issues that top the list include funding for roads and bridges, rural improvement zones and the impact of the property tax reform passed by the Iowa House and Senate earlier this year.
"I think it's going to be a much larger impact on us in a bad way than maybe we thought it was going to be at the time," said Steve Siegel of the Wapello County Board of Supervisors, speaking on the state's property tax. "But if you recall, that was put together in a real hurry at the end of the session after the two sides had not been agreeing and then they came together, so a lot of the details weren't really fully fleshed out for us. So now we're learning what some of those are and they're going to be problematic down the road for counties."
Siegel said the meeting, hosted by the Iowa State Association of Counties, is beneficial because it's largely non-partisan and focused more on the needs and priorities of the counties.
Another priority for Iowa county supervisors in 2014 is mental health. Counties across the state have been slowly merging into a new redesign system for the past several months. Counties are divided into regions and each region is responsible for dividing funding and services between them.
However, many counties are concerned there won't be enough funding to maintain current services, let alone expand them.
"I'm skeptical about a lot of the mental health redesign that came up, but the big thing in the back of my mind is the state trying to grab property tax dollars to go back to the state to fund other services and I'm totally against that," said Denny Ryan Ryan of the Monroe County Board of Supervisors. "I think the property tax dollars should stay in the county in which they're generated."
As state senators and representatives prepare for the 2014 legislative session, the counties are suggesting they eliminate the 80% reversion of funds to the state and instead use that savings to invest in the regional mental health system.
The Iowa legislative session begins on January 13.