(Update: 01-29-20) The Riverdale City Council approved the notice of the “max levy” public hearing as part of its regularly scheduled meeting on February 25, 2020. For those who want to learn more about the structure of the City’s tax levy, current status of the FY 21 budget and process used to review and approve both, a public information session will be held as part of the regularly scheduled Town Hall meeting on Sunday, February 23, 2020 at 2pm in the Community Room at City Hall.

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(Original Story: 01-25-20) A public hearing required under a new Iowa law, to establish a “ceiling” on the upcoming property tax levy for the coming year, will likely be held on February 25th (pending final approval from the City Council at its meeting on January 28th).

“The State of Iowa has established a new process for cities to follow for budgeting,” explained Interim City Administrator, Lisa Kotter. “Riverdale, just like the other 720+ cities in the State of Iowa, is required to hold a public hearing to inform residents of the maximum possible tax levy that may be issued for the coming fiscal year. Following that public hearing, the City will then have to schedule a second public hearing in March to review the budget and present the actual tax levy for the coming year (which will have to be equal to or lower than the “max levy” presented at the first hearing).”

In order to accommodate the second public hearing and additional notice period required (a period of up to 20 days), the State gave all of its cities a 16-day extension for filing budgets with their respective counties (from March 15th to March 31st).

“The public hearing for the “maximum levy” will be held as part of the regular City Council meeting set for February 25th at 7pm in Council Chambers,” explained Administrator Kotter. She noted the actual public hearing date still needs to be approved by the Council at Tuesday’s meeting (January 28th), but did not foresee any problems with gaining the needed okays.

Possible Sticker Shock

The administrator cautioned about reading too much into the initial information provided to the City Council to enable them to set a date for the “max levy” public hearing.

“If you’re just thumbing through the paperwork for our next City Council meeting, you’ll see the resolution for the “max levy” hearing includes a worksheet with a huge increase in the levy (up over 100%).” Administrator Kotter continued, “As the mayor and I work on putting the budget together, we do not expect the levy to be at that level when the budget is presented to the Council in March – but that number shows you what the tax rate would be if we increased the Regular General levy from where we are ($4.35823/thousand) to the maximum allowed by law ($8.10/thousand) and added in additional tax revenue to cover benefits related to staffing.”

The way the deadlines work with the State of Iowa, the decision was made to present a “worst-case scenario” for the “max levy” public hearing and stay focused on crafting a responsible, 0-based budget for FY21 (in accordance with a proposal presented by the mayor as part of the Council’s January 5th planning work session).

“The City of Riverdale is on solid ground financially,” said Administrator Kotter. “But while we won’t be anywhere near a “worst-case scenario” with our budget, by presenting it at the public hearing and having a conversation with Council Members and residents as part of that meeting, we leave all of our options open and can be more responsive as we work out the final budget in the weeks that follow.”

Next Steps

Once the date for the public hearing is approved by the City Council, the City will place an ad in the local paper and continue working on the FY21 budget in order to be able to provide as much information as possible on the status of the budget at the February 25th meeting. Two public intake meetings have already been held and the City Council has established some desired action items for the coming year as part of its goal-setting session on January 5th – all information needed to formulate a budget for the coming fiscal year.

The mayor and administrator still plan to facilitate at least one more public meeting with citizens interested in a more in-depth review and discussion of the budget while it’s being created for presentation to the City Council in March. The date for that meeting will be announced on-line, via social media and email and notices will be posted in public spaces at some point in the near future.