Linn County debt skyrocketing to $68M

November 28, 2018

Today, during a four (4) minute meeting of the Linn County Board of Supervisors, the Board obligated County taxpayers to $8,330,000 in long term debt plus interest – see links at end.

According to the County’s Annual Report (6/28/2018) on EMMA, a website established to increase transparency in the municipal securities market, Linn County’s debt was $28,915,218 as of 6/30/2018 – see page 13.

Once the $8.33M is borrowed, the County’s long term debt will increase to about $37M in the fiscal year that ends 6/30/2019.  Add in an estimated $31.5M in long term debt for the Harris Building, and by December 2019 County taxpayers will be on the hook for over $68M in long term debt plus interest.

Couple that $68M with the Cedar Rapids School District plans to spend $224.2M and the City of Cedar Rapids plans to increase the City’s property tax levy by 22 cents for ten years, and it is no wonder some in this community are crying foul on the tax breaks given away to developers.  Maybe the City, the School District, and the Board should sit down and have a discussion about priorities versus the taxpayers ability to pay?  Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Linn County 2019A Revised Finance Plan Discussion

Linn County 2019B Revised Finance Plan Discussion

HrngSet BondSalesGOLandand WaterLegacyandGOCoBldgLinnCounty 634201-30-v1…

Follow-up: CR TIF overpayment reduced from $2.7M to $917K

November 27, 2018

On 9/30/2018, the Gazette reported that Linn County had overpaid the City of Cedar Rapids about $2.7M from tax increment financing funds. The City contended the amount of the overpayment was less than $2M and the attached worksheet indicates the overpayment has now been reduced to about $917K.

Cedar Rapids was able to find additional items to certify against the balances, which reduced the overpayment. Two of the areas are no longer negative. Of the seven areas that are now negative, five are fully expired by 06/30/2020. The remaining two are not expired.

Hopefully, everyone is more educated about TIFs and overpayments will not occur in the future. –Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Summary -Negative FY19 TIF’s – 12-1-18 Filing for FY2019-2020.pdf

Highest mid-term voter turnout ever

November 9, 2018
Note:  “Ever” means per our records.

Unofficially, more Linn County voters voted in the November 6th gubernatorial election than in any other gubernatorial election.  Overall, Tuesday’s election attracted the fifth highest number of voters of any election.

Congratulations to the permanent and seasonal employees of the Linn County Auditor’s Office, the precinct election officials, and the voters for making Tuesday a great day for democracy!  Thank you!  -Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Straight party voting and ballot order

November 8, 2018

This was the first general election in which the option to vote straight party was absent from ballots.

And, for the first time in the recent history of Linn County, a third party topped the order of parties listed on the ballot, i.e., Libertarian candidates were listed first in each race followed by Republican candidates and then Democratic candidates.

Although I heard concerns from Democrats about the ballot order and the lack of a straight party option, Democratic leaning voters identified and voted for Democratic candidates in sufficient numbers to elect Democratic candidates in ten (10) of twelve (12) contested partisan races in Linn County.  Those contested County races were:  state senator and representatives, and county supervisors and treasurer.

And a majority of the votes cast in Linn County went to the Democratic candidates running for the statewide and congressional offices.

So did the absence of the straight party voting option and the ballot order decrease the margin of victory for any Democratic candidate?  Doubtful.  And no evidence exists to support that theory.  -Joel D. Miller


Unreturned absentee ballots aid conspiracy theories

November 2, 2018

By the time Linn County Election Services processes your absentee ballot request, mails an absentee ballot to you, receives the ballot back from you, files the ballot to be counted, opens the affidavit envelope containing your absentee ballot, and counts the absentee ballot, we have about $5.00 wrapped up in the end-to-end process. As of today, we have issued 37,049 absentee ballots and 30,686 have been returned to us.

Ultimately, if 3,000 of those absentee ballots are never returned to us to be counted, we will have wasted about $12,000 tax dollars on those 3,000 unreturned absentee ballots.

Although we do not collaborate with partisan organizations/candidates to get absentee ballots returned, we recognize that sometimes they are helpful, e.g., a postcard from the DCCC reminds voters to return their absentee ballots and states, “Ballots must be received by 9pm on Nov 6th”.

If the DCCC mails out a postcard in the future, they should probably add the word “absentee” when referring to ballots in Iowa, e.g., “absentee ballots must be handed over to the Auditor’s Office by 9pm on November 6th or postmarked no later than November 5th to be counted”.

The DCCC might also note that the affidavit envelope and the absentee ballot may be exchanged at your precinct polling place for a precinct ballot if you choose not to vote the absentee ballot. And finally, if you threw away your absentee ballot or the dog ate it, you can vote a provisional ballot.

If the reason you signed an absentee ballot request form was to get the door knocker to leave you alone, and you had no intention of voting absentee; then please be assertive the next time someone knocks on your door and say No Thank You.

Voting by mail is expensive and we would like to account for every absentee ballot we issue. Requesting an absentee ballot and not voting it not only increases the costs of elections and your taxes, but lends itself to conspiracy theories about missing votes. Be assertive! If you do not want to vote, then say so. It is your right. –Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Center for Voter Information mailers: Intimidating or helpful?

November 1, 2018

Four Linn County voters have called Elections Services to complain about mail from the Center for Voter Information. They felt intimidated by the mailing. Another voter complained and brought us two mailings she had received from the Center.

We have received complaints on these types of mailers in past elections and the Iowa Attorney General and the US District Attorney reviewed those past mailers. Although neither attorney appreciated the mailers, they determined they were not illegal in that election cycle, i.e., in 2016

The purpose of this post is to inform you that we are aware of the mailers. If you feel intimidated by the mailers, then I suggest you contact the Center for Voter Information and let them know how you feel.

Unfortunately, there is nothing my office can do to stop these mailers from being delivered to your mailbox. –Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Return your absentee ballots

October 31, 2018

There is a persistent rumor that swirls around every election concerning absentee ballots.  The rumor goes like this:  “You know, your absentee ballot is only counted if the race for (insert an office) is close.  Otherwise, your absentee ballot is not counted”.

That rumor is 100% #FakeNews!

In Iowa, every eligible ballot/vote is counted.  Some ballots are not counted because the voter was not qualified to vote or the absentee ballot was received too late to be counted.

Some absentee ballots are not counted because the voter never mails the ballot back to our office with a November 5th or earlier postmark; or never hands it over to our office by 9pm on Election Day.

In the 2016 general election, voters failed to return over 3,000 absentee ballots to Linn County Elections.  Those 3,000 plus votes might have changed the outcome in one or more races, e.g., Ray v Oleson.

As of 8am today (10/31), more than 8,000 absentee ballot have NOT been returned to Linn County Elections.

If you threw your absentee ballot in the trash, we can send you a replacement absentee ballot until 5pm this Friday, November 2nd.  Sorry, it is too late to request an absentee ballot via the mail, but you can still vote early/absentee in our office.  -Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Trick or treat: Did you vote yet?

October 31, 2018

Today, a voter stopped me in the hallway to ask about a person who knocked on his door yesterday.  According to what I heard the voter say, the conversation went something like this …

Young man:  According to my list, you are a registered Republican and you have not voted.

Voter:  I am a life long registered Democrat.

Young man:  Can I see your voter registration card?

Voter:  Here’s my Warren County voter registration card.  See, it says I am a Democrat.  I am registered to vote in Linn County, but this is the one I happen to have in my wallet.

Young man:  Warren County?

Voter:  Yes.

Young man:  Thank you!

The young man left and the voter came into the office and voted today, and then saw me and asked about the incident.  I told the voter that I had no knowledge of anyone knocking on doors and asking to see a voter’s voter registration card.

Trick or treat:  May I see your voter registration card?  Did you vote yet?  It’s Halloween.  Get ready for some strange questions at your door tonight.  -Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Did you receive a text message indicating your “early vote” was “not recorded”?

October 30, 2018

A Linn County voter who voted absentee on October 8th just emailed us and said she received a text message from 515-400-0131. The text reads: Trump Alert: PENDING. As of 10/25, your early vote is NOT RECORDED on Iowa’s roster. Find your polling place >>

The phone number the text came from is “not in-service”.

If you received a similar text, please forward it to me at or call me at 319-892-5300. The text could be an honest error; or it could be otherwise. Let’s find out how many residents received it and collect some data before jumping to conclusions. – Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

What if my absentee ballot request is received after 10/27?

October 26, 2018

What happens if my ABRF (absentee ballot request form) is received by Linn County Election Services after 10/27? You will receive a letter.

Why? Because the Iowa Legislature and Governor approved a change in Iowa law in 2017.

How many prospective voters will be disenfranchised because they did not know the law and thought they could submit ABRFs through 5pm on the Friday before the election?

Our office expects to receive over 1,000 requests for absentee ballots between October 29th and November 5th that we CANNOT fulfill due to the change in the law. Please contact your legislators if you have any questions or concerns. –Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

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