June 20, 2024

Newton City Council adopts FY24 operating budget with same tax levy rate

Budget adds funding for new city positions like fire prevention specialist, CSO

The Newton City Council discusses rule changes to the council meeting procedures. In addition to removing a section about requiring citizen comments to remain germane or relevant to city business, the council also provided amendments that expand citizen participation, keep the veto override vote a super majority and lets officials reply back to residents during citizen participation portions, among other changes.

Newton City Council on April 3 unanimously approved the fiscal year 2024 operating budget, which sees the tax levy rate unchanged, retains current staffing levels with cost-of-living adjustments and step increases for pay plan positions and funding for new staff positions.

In addition to a new engineering tech and community service officer (CSO), the city has designated funds for a fire prevention specialist, which follows through with one of city council’s goals for 2022-2024. Newton Daily News reported in December 2022 that the position would cover similar responsibilities as fire marshal.

The fire prevention specialist will cover fire investigations, provide educational efforts, enforce fire safety of new buildings or developments and oversee the commercial inspection program and mobile food vendor program, among other things, like safety outreach programs for the elderly communities.

Newton City Administrator Matt Muckler told Newton Daily News in past interviews that the fire prevention specialist would provide a lot of proactive safety measures for community members, which is not possible with the stretched thin staff currently in place.

The new CSO position is a result of council’s priority to create a code enforcement division for the Newton Police Department. The division would allow the city to continue improving curb appeal, which is something citizens have stressed as a need in the comprehensive plan.

The city council ranked the code enforcement division No. 5 in its 2022-2024 goals list. It is expected to cost $162,459 per year to the city’s budget. Muckler said the feedback he has received from citizens tells him the city is moving in a positive direction in terms of curb appeal.

Currently, the city has two CSOs reporting directly to the police chief and taking care of all of their administrative work. When the city receives a complaint, the CSOs respond and drive out to a property to assess the situation. From there they can determine whether there is a code violation.

If there is a code violation, the CSO returns to the office to write up a citation and deliver it to the property owner. Muckler said the city is looking for ways to keep CSOs out in the community a little bit more and have an administrative superior assist with the paperwork side while also hiring an additional CSO.

For another consecutive year, the City of Newton’s budget continues to set its tax levy rate at $17.14 per $1,000 of taxable value. City documents also show the ending undesignated balance in the general fund is estimated to at 25 percent of expenditures in accordance to adopted financial policies

To view the operating budget in full, visit www.newtongov.org/840/Transparency-Center.

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.