Friday, January 25, 2008

AmeriCorps Is Coming! AmeriCorps is Coming!

What do you do if one of the largest state institutions in your community faces a shut-down by the state? Well, if you are a group of dedicated community-minded individuals, you look for a way to keep it opened.

This is what happened when the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School was facing a shutdown by the state. A group of individuals successfully recruited the National Civilian Community Corps program of AmeriCorps to use the Braille School as one of two Midwest training sites. We are expecting an influx of 160 volunteers, aged 18-24, and a staff of 12 to arrive by July 1, 2008.

This is great for the Braille School which has a rich history including famous students such as Mary Ingalls, sister of author Laura Ingalls Wilder; and for the City of Vinton. These young people will give the local economy a good boost as they actively live and participate in our community.

Monday, January 14, 2008

State Legislative Session Starts

Today, the State of Iowa General Assembly begins to meet for their 2009 legislative session. We are hoping the legislature takes a good look at street funding this year. Last year, they received a report that indicated the state would have a shortfall of $29 billion in street construction over the next twenty years. While putting aside the gas tax, which hasn't been raised since 1989, the legislature is looking at other sources for revenue.

This is important for Vinton since prices for personnel and fuel (the city spent $6000 on fuel last month for snow removal) keep increasing, while the city's revenue from the state for streets only increases at about $1000-$2000 each year. This is another reason why the Council decided to look at possible revenue from the Local Option Sales Tax for street improvements, should the referendum pass on Janaury 29.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Budget Time

It is currently that time of the year when cities, including Vinton, put together their budget for the next fiscal year which runs from July1, 2008 to June 30, 2009. We do not have too many capital project planned right now. The only thing we are looking at is the Maple Lane Storm Shelter which will be financed through a FEMA grant and funds set aside from TIF projects.

We are also waiting for the results of our Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) referendum on January 29. The LOST allows a local jurisdiction to add one cent to taxable sales and that money is returned to the city or county for use in the local jurisdiction.

The city hopes to put half of the money received, about $250,000 toward street improvements. We have no other way to receive money for these improvements other than borrowing money which will increase the tax levy for debt service. There are several streets that need to be repaired, so the city will probably need to get the funding either by borrowing or through the LOST. Since another 25 percent of the LOST revenue goes toward property tax relief, the city plans to lower the tax levy by one dollar per $1000.

We'll see how things go and budget accordingly!