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Tiffin property valuations rise, levies likely to remain stable

TIFFIN– Thanks to consistent growth, the City of Tiffin will have a little more breathing room at budget time.
Each year, the Johnson County Auditor’s Office provides a report of each city’s taxable values on all properties within the city limits. Tiffin City Administrator Doug Boldt told the council at its Jan. 5 meeting that Tiffin’s valuation went from $78,015,306 in January 2014 to $93,821,928 in January 2015, an increase of about $15.8 million.
That equates to roughly $130,000 more in the city’s general fund balance this year, estimated Boldt.
“There are communities that are working backwards, seeing their valuations go down,” Boldt said. “We are lucky.”
For residents, it translates to a steady city tax levy.
Tiffin’s city tax levy is currently $11.80 per $1,000 of assessed value before the state’s rollback; a small decrease from the previous year’s levy of $11.97. And even though the tax levy has not increased, the city has been able to accomplish major capital improvement projects– including extending Ireland Avenue from Interstate 80 to Highway 6, and building a new city hall.
In the next few years, other planned projects will be paid through an appropriations bond, which allows the city to borrow the entire amount for the projects but restricts the city’s debt obligation to a single annual payment to be approved each year. The city council approved the $4.3 million bond in June, with an annual payment of around $450,000. A portion of the annual payment will be paid through Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for certain projects.
Higher valuations and strategic borrowing add up to a little more wiggle room during the city’s financial planning process.
That will be the focus of Tiffin’s council and others all over the state of Iowa in the next two months, as municipal budgets are required to be adopted and certified with the County Auditor by March 15.
Boldt noted the sound accounting conducted by Interim City Administrator Tim Long. Long stayed on after Boldt’s hire in April, to assist with reconciling the city’s books and straighten out several budget issues found in previous years’ records.
Long submitted a notice of termination of his services, as he accepted a position as Interim City Manager in Tipton, and will be moving on this week. However, Long said he would remain available to the Tiffin staff and council to answer any finance-related questions they might have going forward.
“You are to be commended for sticking to ferreting this all out and having a much better understanding of where your financials are at the year’s end,” Long told the council. “You wouldn’t have to look too far to find places that didn’t really care, but you have stuck to getting it sorted out and it’s been satisfying for me, and I hope it’s been helpful for you.”
Council members thanked Long for his dedication to improving the city’s recordkeeping.
“It’s been a pleasure for all of us,” said council member Jim Bartels. “It’s been almost a year.”
“It gives us a solid foundation to work from,” said council member Peggy Upton.
Boldt said Long’s work was not only helpful, but imperative.
“This may be a small town, but we are not doing small things,” Boldt said. “And because of that, it’s essential we have the foundation you are talking about so we can feel good about the things we do financially.”