Archive for the ‘Reorganization’ Category

Supervisor districts map may be approved tomorrow

September 13, 2017

Tomorrow (9/142017), Linn County’s Temporary Redistricting Commission may approve a districts map dividing the County into three equally populated County Supervisor districts. Last week, four members of the Commission – two Republicans and two Democrats – showed up and no map was selected out of the four presented (see attached pdf).  I think they might have decided to not ask for any other versions of the map, but that could change tomorrow.

I plan to attend the meeting. If you want to attend the meeting, it will be held at 9:30am in the Community Services Building at 1240 26th Avenue Court SW, Cedar Rapids, IA, 52404.  For directions, click here. -Joel D Miller – Linn County Auditor

$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

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 / /

NEWS RELEASE: Linn County Temporary Redistricting Commission Appointed

May 17, 2017

Linn County Temporary Redistricting Commission Appointed

LINN COUNTY, IA – May 17, 2017 – A five-member temporary redistricting commission was appointed this week by the Linn County Board of Supervisors. Iowa code instructs the Board of Supervisors to establish the Commission by May 15, 2017 following the November 2016 election where Linn County voters voted to reduce the membership of the Linn County Board of Supervisors from five to three.

According to Iowa code, the members of the Board of Supervisors in the majority party appoint the majority number of commission members, while the Board minority party member(s) appoints the minority number of commission members.

The temporary redistricting commission members are:

Ray Dochterman

Cindy Golding

Sarah Halbrook

Dave Mahachek

Nate Willems

Linn County is currently represented by Board of Supervisor districts under “Plan 3”. According to Iowa code, new supervisor districts must be designated by December 15, 2017, unless a valid petition is filed by June 1, 2017 requesting a special election on the representation plan.

All three supervisor seats will be on the ballot during the general election in November 2018. The three member Board of Supervisors will take office January 2, 2019.

For more information, contact:  Barbara Schmitz – Executive Assistant to the Board of Supervisors – 319-892-5101 –


County going from 5 to 3 supervisor districts in 2019

May 13, 2017

Looks like the Linn County Board of Supervisors is going to begin the task of dividing the County into three equally populated districts – see item in bold red below. I thought we would have a special election to pick a supervisor representation plan in August, but the June 1st deadline for the petitioners to submit a petition is fast approaching and I have not seen any signature gathering occurring.

Why appoint a Temporary County Redistricting Commission now? The June 2018 primary election is a "short" thirteen months away and the incumbent supervisors (and others including yours truly) are going to want to know who is included in the district they will potentially be representing. Which supervisors will become immediate competitors and which will enjoy no obvious competition will be decided by a few lines on a map?

I anticipate lots of competition and a vigorous public debate in the three 2018 supervisor races. After all, our county supervisors are paid over $100K per year with great benefits and a pension for a position that seems to be treated as a part-time job by one or more supervisors. And since no candidate will have the advantage of a straight party ballot, we might even see a few independents nominated by petition on the ballot. Heck, maybe an independent will get elected?

Hopefully, the public debate will focus on county policy, county operations, and county services and NOT on assassinating each other’s character. As we have seen on the national stage, character assassination is the norm when the facts are scarce.

Have you thought about running for county supervisor? Or public office? It is not too late to consider a run for school board or city office yet this year. And it is not too early to consider running for office in 2018 as I have already talked to candidates campaigning for the 2018 election.

About fifty thousand (50,000) adults in Linn County did not vote in the November 2016 general election. That fact reinforces my conclusion that the problem with our democracy is not that too many people are involved; on the contrary, not enough people are involved. -Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

5-15 Board of Supervisors Agenda.pdf

Board attendance records and meetings

April 14, 2017

About once a quarter, one or more members of the public request the Supervisors’ attendance records for their public Board meetings. As the Clerk to the Board of Supervisors, it is easy for my team to provide the records because we attend every Board meeting, publish the meeting minutes for every meeting, and video record every meeting. No one seems to get too excited about Board attendance and I am not trying to stir anything up with this post.

I am trying to be transparent and educate the public on the number of meetings and time spent at the Board meetings. And I wonder: Does the Board really need to meet three times per week? Would meeting attendance by the public increase if the informal session or formal session was held at 4pm or later in the day? Would the attendance of the Supervisors improve if they held less standing meetings? Could one of the Board’s direct reports takeover the Department Head meetings and provide regular updates to the Board?

A reduction in the number of Board meetings would likely lead to a reduction in the personnel costs associated with supporting those meetings, would likely result in a reduction in the cost of publishing the Board’s meeting minutes in the four local, official newspapers, would likely increase the percentage of meetings attended by the Board, and may even increase the public’s attendance at the meetings. The Board has been having three a week meetings for maybe decades. Is there a better way to govern? -Joel D Miller – Linn County Auditor – Educator

BOS Attendance.xlsx

Recorder Auditor consolidation – it’s not my battle

May 26, 2010

On March 30th, Adam Belz reported that Paul Pelletier, if elected County Recorder, wants to abolish the Office of Recorder and consolidate it with the County Auditor and County Treasurer.  When I read the comments attached to the story, I noticed I was being mentioned – sometimes in an unkind manner.

For the record:  I had nothing to do with Mr. Pelletier running for Recorder.  My first face-to-face meeting with him was at a Metro North Rotary meeting.  I am a member and now Paul is a member.  He was recruited by the president of our club.

For the record:  I don’t recall when I first met Joan McCalmant, the current Recorder, but it was likely at a Linn County Democratic Central Committee meeting in 1998 or thereabouts.  She’s a Democrat; I’m a Democrat.

I have a conflict of interest in the matter of consolidating the Recorder’s Office with the Auditor’s Office.  If consolidated, I would likely seek an increase in my salary based upon the reassignment of duties and personnel from the Recorder to the Auditor.  For this reason and others, I am NOT advocating the consolidation of the offices nor am I opposing it.  It’s not my battle.

If Mr. Pelletier wants to advocate for consolidation – that’s his prerogative.  If the Board of Supervisors wants to advocate consolidation between the Recorder, Auditor, and other offices – then that’s their prerogative.  If a group of citizens forms a committee to force a vote on the consolidation – then that’s their prerogative.  It’s not my battle.

But let’s do a reality check!  The facts are that Linn County’s voters have expanded government in recent times.  The Board of Supervisors went from three to five members.  The Cedar Rapids City Council went from five members to nine members.  We have eighteen cities and fifteen school districts in Linn County.  Where is the outcry to consolidate anything?  And how much savings should be achieved in order to proceed with a consolidation:  $50K/year?  $100K/year?  $1Million/year?  What’s your number?

To view the 88 pages of documentation I collected on the subject of Recorder Auditor consolidation, click here.  The collection is from Woodbury County, Linn County, Johnson County, and includes my recent fact finding report.

Good luck Paul!  Good luck Joan!  It’s not my battle.  It’s all yours!

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