Archive for the ‘Budgets’ Category

Top secret: How many of our deceased were cremated?

January 30, 2018

How many cremation permits were signed by the Linn County Medical Examiner (ME) from 1/1/2017 – 12/31/2017? According to not one, but two assistant county attorneys, I have no legal remedy to find out.

Forget about Iowa’s Open Records laws (Code of Iowa Chapter 22) – medical examiner records are confidential public records. And forget about my power to audit – Code of Iowa section 331.502(41) – the fees the medical examiner receives for signing cremation permits have never been deposited into a county fund or account so there is no county fund or account to audit. This reminds of that greasy pig contest my 4-H club held in the 70s.

Earlier this month, I blogged about How much do cremation permits cost taxpayers? I wanted to know how much revenue is generated by the ME for signing cremation permits since the County’s taxpayers are ultimately paying this death tax. It seemed like a simple question. Unfortunately, the Board of Supervisors had little interest in knowing the answer.

I did not let it go.

Last week, I sent an open records request to our medical examiner – see attached. Today, I received a reply from an assistant county attorney – see attached. And now that I have reviewed a cremation permit form, I realize I don’t need and I don’t want all of the data on the form. But the ME could redact everything on the form except for the name of the decedent and a date, and I could count the number of signed permits to determine the fees he earned. Or at the very least, the ME could give me a notarized statement as to the number of cremation permits he signed in 2017.

Or the Board of Supervisors could order the ME to disclose the number of cremation permits he signed … or threaten to cancel his contract if he didn’t disclose the numbers. What are the odds of that happening?

So are the taxpayers of Linn County paying their ME $30K, $70K, or $100K per year for him to sign cremation permits? How many Linn County residents are being cremated per year? The answers to those questions are top secret until someone in a position of power asks them … and discloses the facts. And that’s not me. Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Response from assistant county attorney on 1-26-2018 re Public records request for copies of signed cremation permits.pdf

Public records request to Dr Linder – ME dated 1-23-2018.pdf

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NEWS RELEASE: Linn County Seeks Input on Website Redesign

January 25, 2018

For more information, contact:

Joi Alexander

Communications Director

(319) 892-5118

joi.alexander

For Immediate Release

January 25, 2018

Linn County Seeks Input on Website Redesign

LINN COUNTY, IA – January 25, 2018 – Linn County is preparing to redesign its website in 2018. As part of the process, Linn County is conducting a survey that seeks input from the public. The survey will help Linn County determine what type of information is most useful for residents and the community.

Gathering public input on the website redesign is part of Linn County’s Customer-Centered Culture work outlined in its strategic plan.

“Our goal with the website redesign is to create the best product possible for our customers,” said Linn County Communications Director Joi Alexander. “To help us reach this goal, we are encouraging the public to participate in the survey so we can know what’s important to them in terms of information they are seeking or functions they are trying to perform.”

The survey is available on the County’s website at www.linncounty.org. The survey will be open through February 28, 2018.

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An anonymous inquiry about a claim

July 11, 2017

The attachment contains a list of claims aka bills to be approved by the Linn County Board of Supervisors tomorrow (7/12/2017). Generally, the bills are approved for payment on a weekly basis and rarely is a bill rejected. And these claims are published in the County’s four official newspapers. But who subscribes to the newspapers? And who reads the Legals and reviews the claims?

Well, someone is reviewing the claims because just this week I received a clipping from the Gazette with a claim circled in red ink and the words: PLEASE LOOK INTO. We have looked into the claim and everything looks legitimate so if we are missing something, whoever mailed the letter to me is going to have to be more specific. If you are the anonymous person, please either send me another anonymous letter or email me at auditor@q.com – a non-government owned email account setup for the purpose of maintaining a degree of confidentiality.

If you want to receive an email with our weekly claims, please send an email to auditor@linncounty.org and we will add you to our weekly distribution list. I think you will find our email with an attachment easier to read than the list published in the newspapers. In addition, Linn County has claims posted on the web going back to 12/11/2013   -Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Linn County List of Claims paid 7-12-17.pdf

Outstanding County bond debt

May 25, 2017

At the end of Fiscal Year 2009, Linn County had eight dollars ($8.oo) in net bonded debt – see page 68. Once the $7.3M bonds are sold (see below), Linn County will have about $25M in bond debt. I was wondering how we accumulated this bond debt so I reviewed the County’s bond book maintained by my office. The breakdown by project/public purpose is below. Please let me know if you have any questions. –Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Project/Public Purpose Principal & Interest Payments
Elections Depot $710,000
County Buildings $1,540,000
Building Improvements $7,450,000
Juvenile Courthouse $2,170,000
Joint Communications System $5,285,000
Monroe Township Fire Station $490,000
Total $17,645,000
G O Urban Renewal 2017A $7,300,000
TOTAL $24,945,000

For more information, contact:

Dawn Jindrich

Budget Director

(319) 892-5116

dawn.jindrich

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 12, 2017

Linn County Receives Aaa Bond Rating on General Obligation Bonds

LINN COUNTY, IA – May 12, 2017 – Moody’s Investors Service has announced it has assigned a Aaa rating to Linn County’s $7.3 million Taxable General Obligation Urban Renewal County Purpose Bonds, Series 2017A. Concurrently, Moody’s maintains the Aaa rating on the County’s outstanding general obligation unlimited tax (GOULT) debt. The Aaa rating is the highest rating possible.

The Series 2017A bonds will be used to finance various urban renewal projects that include Linn County’s acquisition of approximately 485 acres of property near Squaw Creek Park. Linn County expects that acquisition of the property and use for recreation and conservation purposes will contribute to the well-being of the County’s residents and will make the County a more attractive location for new commercial and industrial enterprises.

“This rating is a reflection of our long-standing commitment to the County’s financial health and our strategic goal to demonstrate accountability to taxpayers,” said Linn County Budget Director Dawn Jindrich.

Following issuance of the Series 2017A bonds, Linn County will have $25.2 million of GOULT debt outstanding. The Aaa rating reflects the county’s large tax base that is anchored by the diverse and stable economy of the City of Cedar Rapids (Aa1 stable), Linn County’s sound financial operations, healthy reserves, and low debt and pension burden with manageable fixed costs.

According to Moody’s, the stable outlook reflects Moody’s expectation that Linn County’s credit quality will remain strong due to the strength of the regional economy and the health of the county’s financial operations. The report from Moody’s is available at www.moodys.com/researchandratings.

County uses thousands of vendors

May 11, 2017

Linn County made payments to almost four thousand vendors in Fiscal Year 2016 (7/1/2015 – 6/30/2016). Included in the payments to vendors are reimbursements to employees and one-time payments to precinct election workers (pollworkers).

Maybe the County uses too many vendors. What do you think? After reviewing the data in the attachment, do you see any opportunities to take bids to reduce the number of vendors and reduce our overall costs? Please let me know. -Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Vendor amount for 2016.xls

Sheriff brings in lots of revenue

April 25, 2017

As the attachment indicates, the Office of Linn County Sheriff brings in lots of revenue. That’s good because the County will spend about 26% of its annual (FY2017) budget on Public Safety & Legal Services.

Counties and cities spend a lot of tax dollars on public safety and legal services. Is there a way to reduce costs and maintain services? Can anything be consolidated? How much can we afford to spend or not spend? -Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

20170425134352206.pdf

Public Health and Child & Youth Services building progressing

April 20, 2017

During Supervisor Oleson’s State of the County speech, he alluded to the to-be-built Public Health and Child & Youth Services building, which is supposedly on-budget and on-schedule. In December 2016, OPN Architects presented the plans (see attachment) to the Linn County Board of Supervisors.

I am pleased to see the former Options property being re-purposed for another County purpose. And I am looking forward to the synergies and collaboration that should develop in the medical community as a result of Public Health being located in the MedQuarter. –Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

16_1205 BOS Presentation.pdf

Recorder’s Office pays for itself

April 17, 2017

Year after year, the Office of Linn County Recorder pays for itself through the fees it collects. It’s probably the only Linn County office or department where revenues consistently exceed expenses.

One of the growing services offered by the Recorder is passports. The office is a one-stop-shop for everything you need to apply for a passport – no appointment necessary – and based upon the fees collected, business is great!

The attachment below is the Recorder’s quarterly report. It illustrates the various fees collected by the Recorder. Enjoy. -Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor – Educator

4-19 Recorder’s report.pdf

Last presidential election cost $5.38 per vote

April 7, 2017

The 2016 presidential election cost Linn County’s taxpayers over $635,000 or $5.38 per vote. That cost was actually less than the 2012 presidential election due to the decreased cost of mailing out ballots (we used a mailing firm) and an overall decrease in mailed out & mailed back absentee ballots. In previous posts, I have detailed various unfunded mandates which are going to increase the cost of the 2020 presidential election if the pending House File #516 becomes law. Iowa’s elections are very expensive and you should be concerned as you are paying for them. –Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Statement of Election Costs_110816.docx

Post election audits are going to cost you

April 6, 2017

The post-election audits required by the proposed Iowa House File #516 are going to cost you. In Linn and Johnson Counties, the estimated costs to conduct a post-election audit (hand-count) on ballots in the counties’ absentee precincts would  have  exceeded $19K, i.e., based upon the 2016 presidential election results.

Hopefully, absentee precincts will not be audited frequently, but when it occurs, it will be expensive.  And large counties with lots of precincts are likely to be audited more often if precincts are randomly selected versus counties being randomly selected.

This is could be yet another unfunded mandate courtesy of the Iowa Secretary of State, Legislature, and Governor.  -Joel D. Miller

Johnson County Absentees Cost Cost Per Ballot
41,795 $ 19,225.70 $ 0.460
Linn County Absentees Cost
42,170 $ 19,398.20

 


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