Kirkwood Community College director districts

June 26, 2017

Ever think about learning more about Kirkwood Community College (KCC)? KCC has a board of directors like school districts in Iowa; however, it cover a multi-county area – see Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe KCC is the third largest college in the State of Iowa based upon number of enrolled students.

The map/app contains the following layers:

· Counties: Outline of the counties in the Kirkwood area;

· School Districts;

· General Election Precincts based upon 2012 Redistricting; and

· Kirkwood Director Districts: Kirkwood Director Districts created from the school districts layer while referencing the director district internal boundaries.

The election of KCC district directors occurs on the school election ballots in the counties comprising KCC. – Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Code of ethics checkoff

June 23, 2017

Recently, the Finance & Budget Department proposed a Code of Ethics for Linn County’s employees. Seems like a county founded in 1839 should have already had an Code of Ethics, then again, maybe it was not needed until now because all of our moral compasses were in alignment?

In any case, the attachment contains a proposed Code of Ethics. It’s not a very strong policy, e.g., it contains only one potential penalty and that is for theft. And it lacks definitions, e.g., what is “conscientious” performance of duty; what are private interests, private gains, preferential treatment, and special privileges? And how would the Code apply to a County Supervisor’s request for a couple loads of gravel from the Secondary Roads department for a local non-profit?

Please email your company’s code of ethics to I think you probably have some language in your code of ethics that we could borrow to improve the County’s proposed code of ethics, i.e., unless we are just going through the motions to checkoff that box. – Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Aumentum Aumentum Aumentum – All about Aumentum

June 20, 2017

All about Aumentum. Or was it?

If you watch today’s (6/20/2017) Board of Supervisors meeting on YouTube, you will either close the video or be left scratching your head if you watch it until the end. What were the Supervisors and Auditor talking about?

Early on, I disclosed that someone in my office made an error, we found it, and we were correcting it. We are not perfect and I was being transparent about the error with the Board, but then, one or more of them knew about the error as did the County Treasurer sitting in the audience, so I guess they just wanted to see if I was going to disclose it. I had no intentions of doing otherwise.

Then we got into how my office could avoid the error in the future and I told the Board we now had an independent report from IT (Information Technology) that we would use next year to compare with the report generated by Aumentum. If we pulled the wrong report or the report generated by Aumentum was inaccurate, we would catch the error prior to filing for the State credits. Case closed.

Then we discussed a whole lot of other stuff related to Aumentum, e.g., the Board’s involvement in Aumentum, project management, accountability, and who owned Aumentum – you are just going to have to watch the video to get a full appreciation of the back and forth – which I was pleased with because the Board actually discussed Aumentum for about an hour.

I mentioned to the Board the two sides of quality: You can build quality into a product or you can inspect quality into a product. Based upon the issues we have had with Aumentum, I believe we are trying to “inspect” in the quality. Two of the attachments, i.e., the open case log and the Linn County priorities would seem to support my belief. In addition, the County has a number of personnel doing work-arounds using spreadsheets when, in my opinion, the product – Aumentum – should be doing the work. What do you do when the personnel doing the work-arounds leave the County?

The third attachment is a letter written to Thomson Reuters (TR) in September 2016 by Supervisor John Harris expressing his/our dissatisfaction with Aumentum. That letter originated after many months of frustration and disgust with TR and their product. You will not likely find many letters like that one in the County’s official records.

While Aumentum has improved since going operational in 2014, I cannot recommend it to another government entity in Iowa. Why? My office has prepared four annual valuation reports using Aumentum and all four reports were produced after the statutory deadline passed. My office has prepared three annual tax lists and is working on this year’s tax list now. We have missed my deadline to provide the tax list to the County Treasurer for the last three years.

I hope the Board follows through on my recommendation to hold a public Board meeting to review the cases and priorities related to Aumentum … and potential solutions, e.g., let’s hire a project manager on our side to hold ourselves accountable, the vendor accountable, and publicly report on the progress of Aumentum. The public is aware of our failures … and our excuses. Are we worried that the public will not understand? Maybe they won’t understand, but I can tell you that they are tired of our excuses. And on August 1st of this year, I would like to be thinking about the outcome of the Supervisor Representation Plan election and NOT how I am going to spin some explanation for missing another deadline. – Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

IA-Linn_Support Review Meeting 6-8-2017 Thomson Reuters open case log.xlsx

Aumentum – Linn County priorities 6-21-2017.docx

Thomson Reuters letter – September 2016.docx

$103K per year for 3 hours per week

June 16, 2017

OK, that headline is not fair. But the purpose of a headline is to get you to read the story. And the story here is about whether the Linn County Board of Supervisors (BOS) needs to meet three times per week.

From time to time over my past ten years as Auditor, I have asked the BOS to consider scheduling less public meetings. I usually bring it up when they complain about the cost of publishing their meeting minutes in the County’s four official newspapers. Why does the BOS need to meet three times per week? Maybe they could get their public work done in two meetings per week? And in some weeks, they could get their work done in one meeting per week. In fact, in one week earlier this year, they had one meeting via telephone that lasted five (5) minutes.

If you review the attachment, you will see that the BOS met publicly an average of just over three hours per week over the first 24 weeks of 2017. That tells me that they could get their work done in one meeting per week the majority of the time. Now, I am not advocating for less meetings because I want the BOS to work less, but preparing, holding, and reporting on three meetings per week takes up more staff time per week than meeting once per week. And it would likely reduce the length of the meeting minutes published in the newspapers.

As for the individual BOS members attendance records, they range from a low of 76% attendance to a high of 89% attendance for the first 24 weeks of 2017. Seems like their attendance could be higher if the members cooperated with each other and scheduled their official meetings around vacations and other county business. The BOS’s three meetings per week ritual seems to be carved in stone … except when it’s not. –Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

BOS Attendance week ending 6-16-2017.xlsx

Does popularity of DNR plates equal support for water quality?

June 13, 2017

If I had only analyzed the Linn County Treasurer’s monthly Auto Reports before the November 2016 election, I might have predicted that the vote on the Conservation Bond would pass with overwhelming support. Woulda; shoulda; coulda. Instead, I owe someone with the initials RS a lunch – which he must have forgotten about.

The Treasurer’s Auto Reports indicate that the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) plates and renewals were the most popular plates in the month of May. The same holds true for the last six months of reports. Surprisingly, the DNR plates generate more revenue than the University of Iowa plates or personalized license plates.

If Linn County’s residents are willing to support conservation and water quality to the extent they will tax themselves to pay for forty million dollars in bonds to support it, then surely the remainder of the State is interested in the doing the same. Right? Evidently not. The last seven legislative sessions failed to increase the State sales tax by as little as one-eighth-of-a-cent to begin funding the Iowa Natural Resources & Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.

Think of how many times per day you turn on the faucet. What’s it worth to you to have water? And to have water clean enough for you to drink. Visit a third world country like I have over the last thirty plus years and you will have more of an appreciation for our plentiful, clean, clear drinking water. – Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor and former dairy farmer


We are going to get sued

June 9, 2017

Governing magazine does a great job of gleaning news stories (see below) from around the country.  I have been reading the majority of its stories related to voter ID laws.

Even though Iowa’s recently signed Voter ID law was said to be put together to avoid the litigation occurring in other states, I have concluded – based upon the various legal challenges occurring in other states – that some county auditors – likely the Polk, Linn, and/or Johnson County Auditors – are going to get sued over the new Voter ID laws we are now responsible for administering.

I believe every county auditor in Iowa will make best efforts to keep any eligible voter from being disenfranchised on Election Day.  I believe that no matter how hard we try, our public education efforts on the new Voter ID law will not reach everyone.  And finally, I believe the end result will be that someone’s ballot, which would have been counted under the old laws, will not be counted under the new Voter ID law.

So if one voter impersonation case in the last decade or two was the motivator to change our election laws this year, then it’s reasonable to foresee that one voter, disenfranchised by the new Voter ID law, will be the motivator for someone to file a lawsuit against a county and/or the State in the future.  –Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor



Committee and liaison assignments by County Supervisor

June 8, 2017

According to TaxExemptWorld (4/23/2017), Linn County is home to 1,776 non-profits. The Linn County Board of Supervisors has an active role in over thirty non-profits and/or governmental organizations (see below list and attachment).

Should Supervisors be on the boards of directors (BoD) of local non-profits? Should the County be donating tax dollars to those non-profits? Does having a Supervisor on a non-profit’s BoD give that non-profit an advantage over any other non-profit?

If I was a Supervisor, I would try to avoid being on the BoD of any non-profit. That does not mean that I would not belong to any non-profit, e.g., Rotary, but I would not be on the BoD of my Rotary Club. Agree or disagree? –Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

CR/Linn County Solid Waste Agency (3 yr term)
CR Metro Ec. All. Large Investor Council
Corrections – 6th Judicial (3 yr term)
Corridor Metropolitan Planning Org. (BOS term)
Early Childhood Iowa Board
ECICOG (3 yr term)
MEDCO (District IV Supervisor)
Public Art Commission
Public Health Board
Transportation Policy Committee
Area Ambulance (2 yr term)
E-911 Service Board (b)
Housing Fund for Linn County
Workforce Development CEO Board
ASAC (rotate annually)
Continuum of Care
Emergency Management Agency (EMA)
Heritage Agency on Aging
Legislative – State
Local Homeless Coordinating Board
MH/DS of the East Central Region Governing Brd.
Academy for Scholastic & Personal Success
The Arc of East Central Iowa
Cedar Rapids Community Schools Foundation
Hawkeye Downs
Highway 30 Coalition
Linn County Fair Board
Linn County Gaming Commission
New Bo City Market Board
Prospect Meadows
Safe, Equitable, Thriving Comm. Commission
Selective Service Board
Trees Forever Board of Advisors

The attachment is an Excel file with an individual page/tab of committee and liaison assignments for each individual supervisor.

After you open the attached Excel file, you will see seven separate tabs at the bottom of the page. The first five tabs are the committee and liaison assignments for each individual supervisor; the sixth tab is all five board member committee and liaison assignment lists merged into one document; and the seventh tab is the Excel spreadsheet of committee and liaison assignments created at the beginning of the year.

2017 Board and Liaison Assignments by Supervisor.xlsx

Bonds for Dows properties approved without comment

June 7, 2017

Linn County will issue $7,300,000 in Taxable General Obligation Urban Renewal County Purpose Bonds sometime in the future and you and I will pay for the bonds via a likely increase in our property taxes. The to-be-signed resolution authorizing the bonds is attached.

Today’s action was on the Board’s Consent Agenda and neither they nor the public commented on the issuance of the bonds today. I just thought you should know one of the reasons why the net out-of-pocket taxes you pay to the County may increase in the future. – Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Issnc2017ATxblGOURCountyPurp LinnCounty634201-26-v1.doc

Can we afford the governments taxing us?

May 26, 2017

Linn County (LC) contains 17 cities and part of an 18th city (Walford).  It contains all or part of 18 school districts and it is one of the counties supporting Kirkwood Community College.  LC is comprised of 19 townships, 7 fire districts, a County Assessor, a Cedar Rapids City Assessor, and an Agricultural Extension Council.  All of the preceding are taxing entities, but who taxes you depends on where your real estate is located.

According to the Census Bureau, 43,659 of our 87,318 households* have income less than $59,322; 48,135 of our 96,271 housing units are valued at less than $147,400; and 11% of our population is living in poverty.  Can our residents continue to afford to fund the governments taxing them?

Recently, I attended a meeting and someone said, “We have too much government”.  Iowans love local control.  The byproduct of local control is local government and its employees … and costs … and taxes.  Again, I ask:  can our residents continue to afford to fund the governments taxing them?

Which services do residents want to give up?  The answer:  none that they are using?  Which government offices/departments do they want to consolidate?  None, if it means they will lose control?  And none, if they like the person(s) in the office?  So are we stuck in the status quo?

Can our residents continue afford to fund the governments taxing them?  If we assume that we have too much government and we assume our residents cannot afford to increase their funding of the governments taxing them, then what are the solutions?  Let’s talk.  –Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

*Persons per household (2011-2015) = 2.42







New Deputy Treasurer hired

May 26, 2017

Over the last year, Linn County’s elected officials have appointed replacement deputy elected officials in the Auditor’s Office, the Recorder’s Office, and now the Treasurer’s Office. The “new guard” is getting ready to takeover. –Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

From: Gonzalez, Sharon
Sent: Friday, May 26, 2017 10:36 AM
To: !!Everyone – Countywide
Subject: Deputy Treasurer position

I would like to take this opportunity to announce that I have filled my vacant deputy position from within the department. The position has been offered and accepted by Rebecca McDonald. Rebecca will start her new position as Deputy Treasurer, Office Manager on June 7th.

Thank you,

Sharon Gonzalez – Linn County Treasurer / 319-892-5515 / /

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