Dubuque City Council Adopts Budget with No Tax or Rate Increase

The Dubuque City Council adopted an amended version of the City’s recommended operating and capital budgets for fiscal year (FY) 2021 (July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021) following a public hearing during a virtual meeting on Thursday, April 23.

The adopted City property tax rate of $10.14 per thousand dollars assessed value will give Dubuque the lowest city property tax rate of Iowa’s 11 largest cities. Other key points of the adopted budget include:

• DECREASE in the property tax rate;
• DECREASE in property taxes for the average residential, commercial, and industrial properties;
• DECREASE in refuse/trash collection fees;• NO INCREASE in City water, sanitary sewer, and stormwater rates; and
• NO INCREASE in pay for City employees.

The budget was adopted as the City is experiencing substantial revenue losses and additional expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Between the current fiscal year and FY2021, the City of Dubuque could lose an estimated $16.3 million in revenue. The City has instituted a hiring freeze on most positions vacant in the current fiscal year and most new positions recommended in FY2021. Additionally, travel budgets (conferences, education and training, City business travel) for all departments have been frozen, equipment purchases are delayed, most capital improvement projects are delayed, and some maintenance projects are delayed. The City is also delaying payments to not-for-profit partners. All of these freezes and delays will be reviewed on a quarterly basis.

This adopted budget addresses the current fiscal realities while continuing to provide essential City services to residents, businesses, and stakeholders while minimizing the costs of those services as those groups also experience hardships as a result of the pandemic.

City Portion of Property Taxes
The FY2021 budget provides a City property tax rate of $10.14 per thousand dollars of assessed value, a 1.8 percent decrease from the current rate of $10.33. When compared to the rates of Iowa’s 11 cities with populations over 50,000, Dubuque’s FY2021 rate is the lowest property tax rate. The highest rate (Des Moines, $18.38) is 78 percent higher than Dubuque’s rate. The average of other 10 cities ($15.15) is 47 percent higher than Dubuque.

The 1.8 percent decrease will result in a 0.14 percent property tax decrease for the average Dubuque homeowner ($146,467 home value) and a property tax decrease for commercial (-3.30 percent), and industrial (-2.81 percent). The new rate results in a 9.13 percent increase for multi-residential properties.

City Services & Fees
The adopted budget includes a decrease in the City’s refuse/trash collection fee. The new rate of $14.99 per month for basic service makes Dubuque’s rate the fourth lowest of 11 largest cities. The highest rate (Ames, $26.25) is 75 percent higher than Dubuque’s and the average of other 10 cities ($17.08) is 14 percent higher.

There is no increase in the City’s monthly water rate of $30.72 which makes it the second lowest of the seven Iowa cities with populations over 50,000 and lime softening treatment similar to Dubuque’s. The highest rate (West Des Moines, $18.38) is 20 percent higher than Dubuque’s and the average of the other cities ($33.59) is nine percent higher. Dubuque’s rate of $30.72 is average household rate based on 6,000 gallons per month which breaks down to just $0.00512 per gallon.

There is no increase to Dubuque’s monthly sanitary sewer rate of $42.24. This average household rate is also based on 6,000 gallons per month.

There is also no increase to the monthly stormwater utility fee of $8.29. This monthly rate for the majority of Dubuque households is based on usage of one single family unit. Stormwater fees are based on the amount of impervious ground coverage on a property. Fees collected are only used for stormwater management activities such as the construction, maintenance, and operation of Dubuque’s stormwater management system.

Debt Reduction
The FY2021-FY2025 debt-reduction plan meets the Mayor and City Council’s directive to retire more debt than is issued each year, with a net reduction of approximately $25 million (9.6 percent) of debt over the next five years.

General Fund and Reserve
The City’s General Fund is the general operating fund of the City for general service departments. The General Fund has an operating budget of $66.4 million and a capital budget of $2.8 million. This fund encompasses the bulk of activities that are traditionally considered basic governmental services such as public safety (42 percent), culture & recreation, health and social services, and general government.

The City maintains a General Fund reserve, or working balance, to allow for unforeseen expenses that may occur. The goal is to have at least a 20% reserve. The FY2021 budget includes a General Fund Cash Reserve Fund balance of more than $17 million, or nearly 24 percent.

The City’s total budget for fiscal FY2021 is approximately $198 million, a 3.5 percent increase from FY2020. The operating budget ($134. million) is a 2.5 percent increase from FY2020, while the capital budget ($57.2 million) represents a 3.4 percent increase from FY2020.

All FY2021 budget documents are available on the City’s website at www.cityofdubuque.org/FY2021budget.

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