From the News Desk: Dec. 28, 2023

By Cheryl Allen
Posted 12/27/23

On Friday, Dec. 22 our publisher, Ron Slechta , returned to the office. It was a short visit, but there were smiles all around as we were happy to see him “home,” as our reporter TJ …

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From the News Desk: Dec. 28, 2023


On Friday, Dec. 22 our publisher, Ron Slechta, returned to the office. It was a short visit, but there were smiles all around as we were happy to see him “home,” as our reporter TJ Rhodes put it. We’ve missed him this month as he has been in the hospital, and seeing him back on his feet has been a wonderful Christmas gift.

Some of you noticed the absence of letters to Santa from Mid-Prairie East Elementary’s first graders in the Christmas Greetings section of our Dec. 21 issue. That was not an accidental omission; rather, the first grade teachers decided to change their writing curriculum this year and omit the Santa letters. They expect to send us Winter Fun/How-to Winter Activity writings next month in their place.

Some of you may also have noticed that the downtown Kalona storefront housing Pink Begonia artisan and antique mall is on the market. Owner Lynelle Mellecker looks to sell the property; the new owner will have the option of continuing to lease space to vendors as she did, or bring a new business to the space.

Last week we published a story on the Kalona Public Library’s at-risk budget for FY24-25, which is the result of state property tax reform that will affect city and county budgets next fiscal year. It is worth noting that the Wellman Public Library faces this same challenge, as Wellman voters also approved a levy to support the library in the past that will now disappear.

We had the opportunity to ask State Senator Dawn Driscoll about the impact property tax reform may have on local jobs and services, such as those at the Kalona Public Library. She kindly responded by email:

“Iowa is ranked 40th in property taxes and property taxpayers across the state overwhelmingly voiced their concerns as assessments skyrocketed because of inflation caused by Joe Biden’s policies.

“We heard their concerns and put limits on the growth of local spending. Ultimately, the legislature is not asking local governments to do anything differently than we are doing at the state level. We are spending 2-3% more each year and passing the rest of revenue growth back to Iowans in the form of lower income taxes. Kalona won’t be getting a cut in property tax revenue as a result of this reform, they will only be getting a smaller increase with the rest of the excess revenue passed back to property taxpayers in the form of lower rates.

“As for the libraries, they were consolidated into the overall city budget for local officials to decide where their priorities are. However, according to news reports, Washington county elected official salaries have increased by over 24% over the few several years. If the county needs more money to support the library, there are other areas they could look for the money.”

She is correct: the Washington County Board of Supervisors raised the pay of all elected officials, including themselves, by 20% in December 2021. They followed this up with another 4% increase for FY2023-24. The Washington County Compensation Board is recommending yet another 4% raise for FY2024-25; it will be interesting to see what action the supervisors take given the current concerns over revenue.
Then again, Washington County’s supervisors currently earn $49,001 a year. Compare this to Johnson County’s supervisors, who earn $90,522.

Happy New Year from all of us at The News!

News, column, Pink Begonia, Kalona Public Library, Senator Dawn Driscoll, publisher, New Year