Hundreds gather in New Hampton to protest property tax hike - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UPDATED: Hundreds gather in New Hampton to protest property tax hike

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NEW HAMPTON (KWWL) -

Hundreds gathered in Chickasaw County Thursday, protesting a planned 22 percent increase in local property taxes.  The county supervisors agreed to the hike in a split decision, saying it's needed to cover skyrocketing health insurance costs for county employees, which has left nearly a million dollar hole in the budget.  But county residents are fighting the tax hike, with a formal appeal to the state.

Taxation without representation?  That's how many here in Chickasaw County feel about the planned 22 percent increase in local property taxes.  So they're fighting back, and hoping the state board of appeals finds the increase is both unreasonable and not in the public's best interest.

Schwickerath's lived in New Hampton almost 40 years, and owns a lot of area rental properties.  He's concerned about the major hit his personal and business budgets could take with higher taxes.  That's why he and a former Chickasaw County supervisor spearheaded a huge citizen's effort to appeal the increase.

"Win, lose, or draw, we're here to make things better for Chickasaw County, and we want our supervisors to listen to the taxpayers because we're paying their wages and the employees," Schwickerath said.

That includes controversial health coverage.  The county currently covers all of single plans, and 75 percent of family coverage for its workers.  County supervisors did negotiate lowering single plans to 95 percent, but were still shouldered with finding money to pay for a 40 percent jump in premium costs.

"The unprecedented claims in 2012 came out of nowhere.  It was unpredictable.  Had we known they were going to come, we certainly would've increased our cash reserves in our insurance fund," said Richard Holthaus, chair of the Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors.

Supervisors also found $400,000 in cost savings by delaying projects and equipment purchases.  But residents are frustrated that supervisors said "no" to department head offers to cut another $105,000 from the budget, instead passing the budget shortfall onto taxpayers through higher property taxes.

"I kind of feel like they're living in a castle, and we're sent out to the fields to do the work, so that they can continue to live in the castle," one Ionia resident said.

Now, the arguments of both sides will be reviewed by the state appeals board, to determine if the county's budget is reasonable, and in the interest of public welfare.

Residents here have until noon Tuesday to file additional comments with the state about this issue.  The board of appeals is required to issue its decision by April 30.

 

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