Mason City mayor disappointed in how state handled property tax formula mistake (AUDIO)

MASON CITY — The City Council in Mason City Tuesday night set their February 21st meeting to hold the public hearing on setting the maximum property tax dollars to be levied for the Fiscal Year 2024 budget that starts in July.

A state law change a few years ago mandates that cities and counties must now basically have two public hearings in setting future budgets, one dealing with setting the “max levy” for the budget, and then the formal adoption of the budget a few weeks later.

Some cities and counties have been waiting on setting their dates after an error was recently discovered by the Iowa Department of Revenue in making the statewide calculation that affects property tax rates and how much money is sent to those governments. The Iowa legislature has been working on resolving that issue. The error will result in Mason City getting $400,000 less than originally anticipated.

Mayor Bill Schickel says despite that, they are moving forward with the “max levy” hearing.   “The city administration have put forward a budget that actually reduces our levy by 39 cents, and the overall budget is down about 2%, and we’re able to do this through good fiscal management.”

Schickel says city leaders have planned properly in dealing with that $400,000 hit in incoming property taxes from the state.  “We have budgeted conservatively. We have substantial reserves, and we’ll probably take that out of reserves, but it’s kind of a red light to us in terms of some of the things the state is doing. Although Mason City residents are going to see a property tax cut next year because of some of the things that we’re doing, if the state had implemented some of the plans they’re talking about down there, that would have been a 6% increase that we would have had to implement this year. So we’re keeping a close eye on things down there and working with our partners at the state level to make sure that the best interest of Mason City is represented.”

Schickel was a state legislator representing Mason City from 2003 to 2009, and we asked Schickel if he was disappointed in how the state was handling the property tax formula flap.  “I’ve made enough mistakes in my life that I’m not too quick to point the finger, but an honest answer is yes. This is difficult for us. We could have been notified sooner, but we’ll continue to work with our partners, with the state legislature, and the governor’s office to move forward and if we can rectify this mistake.”

While the “max levy” hearing will take place at the council’s February 21st meeting, the hearing and adoption of the final budget is expected to take place at the council’s March 21st regular meeting.

Schickel made his comments on the “Ask the Mayor” program on AM-1300 KGLO earlier today. Listen back to the program by heading to the audio player below