WATERLOO — The Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors raised property taxes next year to keep the Country View nursing home open.
The supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt a budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 that boosts overall property tax collections by $2 million, or 5.4 percent.
That increase essentially covers a $2 million subsidy to Country View, which was previously expected to stand on its own but has been suffering operating losses.
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The remaining $500,000 increase in taxes for all other county operations, largely driven by pay raises and health insurance costs, is being offset by the use of debt service reserve funds.
Board chairman Craig White said it was important to adequately fund Country View and blamed the state and federal governments for not providing Medicaid reimbursements to cover the cost of care for its 130 residents.
“They do great things out there,” White said. “It’s one of the gems of the Cedar Valley where we are able to take care of these people that can’t take care of themselves and that don’t have a voice.”
Supervisor Frank Magsamen said residential property tax bills would have declined next year had Country View’s Medicaid costs been fully covered. But he said other “unfunded mandates” from the state government could stress the county’s budget going forward.
Supervisor Linda Laylin said county departments are lean, having reduced overall staffing by 34 positions over the last decade.
“It’s getting more and more difficult every year because of things that are being forced on us at the local level from the state and the federal (governments),” she added.
Cheryl Christiansen, the only resident who spoke during the budget hearing, urged the supervisors to keep residential tax bills in check.
“You keep raising it, and I’m retired and I’m getting no increase, so you’re basically taxing me out of my own home,” Christiansen said. “I have to keep a budget; you’re going to have to keep a budget too.”
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Supervisor Chris Schwartz countered that meaningful property tax reduction will require state legislative action to reform criminal justice, noting the county’s law enforcement, jail and court costs are large portions of the budget.
“Until we have changes in the state in the realm of criminal justice we’re not going to see really big drops in property taxes that I think a lot of folks would like to see,” he said.
Supervisor Tom Little supported the budget but wasn’t happy with the 5.4 percent tax increase.
“I do think there was some room for this board to lower that 5.4 percent,” he said. “There’s a portion of it I wish we would have done more work on.”
The countywide tax rate jumps from $6.41 to $6.69 per $1,000 of taxable property value. Property owners in rural Black Hawk County, who do not pay a city tax bill, will see the county’s tax rate increase from $9.62 to $10.19 per $1,000.
Due to a state rollback order reducing the percentage of a home value for taxing purposes, a residential property owner in the city will see a 1.92 percent increase in the county’s share of their tax bill while a rural homeowner will see a 3.5 percent tax increase.
The county supervisors only set the tax rate for county government, which is typically less than a fifth of the overall tax bill. Cities and school districts collect the largest share of the tax bill and set their own budgets and tax rates.