Thanks to a dispatcher who thought I didn't want to truck for 14 hours, I compiled the following information from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Iowa Department of Management's websites while sitting at a McDonald's in Fond Du Lac, Wis.
Kossuth County is 973 square miles. If we combined Winnebago and Hancock (H.W.) it would be 971 square miles, which is about the same. Population is a different story. A combined H.W. would be 22,207 and Kossuth is 15,553
Now let's look at the money. These numbers are fiscal year 2009-10 as reported to the IDM:
Revenues (read taxes)
- Kossuth - $19,396,361 or $1,247 per person.
- H.W. - $25,859,332 or $1,164 per person.
The difference is $6,462,971. At first glance it may seem like a larger county similar to Kossuth would cost more, but remember Kossuth has 6,654 fewer people - or 70 percent - of a combined H.W. Break that number down by square miles and it is just the opposite - $26,631 per square mile for H.W. and $19,934 for Kossuth. Also remember a good share of county revenue is from property taxes, not income.
Now the real question - where and how is the revenue spent?
Public safety and legal services
- H.W. - $3,029,455
- Kossuth - $2,306,877
Physical health social services
- H.W. - $2,866,289
- Kossuth - $431,789
Mental Health, MR and DD
- H.W. - $2,789,461.
- Kossuth - $2,040,796.
County environment and education
- H.W. - $1,121,005.
- Kossuth - $827,502.
Roads and transportation
- H.W. - $7,683,878.
- Kossuth - $5,667,198.
Government services to residents
- H.W. - $734,374.
- Kossuth - $652,511.
- H.W. - $1,667,809.
- Kossuth - $1,547,002.
- H.W. - $144,948.
- Kossuth - $68,325.
- H.W. - $93,568.
- Kossuth - $106,883.
- H.W. - $2,703,286.
- Kossuth - $1,639,490.
In total, those numbers come to $22,834,041 for Hancock and Winnebago, and $15,288,373 for Kossuth. You would think it would be easy to compare cost but when you look at three different reports you see three different ways of reporting. Winnebago reports $70,000 and Kossuth $107,700 for ambulance services - Hancock reports nothing. Hancock has $15,673 in administration cost for its veterans and $19,073 in direct services. Winnebago reports $43,215 in direct services and no administration cost. Kossuth is a real mystery with $39,158 in administrative costs and only $6,578 in services.
Kossuth paid $132,500 out of the general fund while Hancock $46,500 out of both the general and basic funds for economic development. Winnebago took $143,224 all out of the fund titled "other".
Here are a few spots where real savings could be realized:
- Secondary roads, administration and engineering - Hancock spent $404,077 and Winnebago $357,348 for a total of $761,425. Meanwhile, Kossuth spent $492,008.
- Elections - Hancock spent $69,708 and Winnebago $60,812 for a total of $130,520. Kossuth only spent $79,823.
- Administrative management - A combined H.W spent $996,184. Stand alone Kossuth, $826,961.
- Law enforcement communications - Hancock spent $295,550 and Winnebago $304,166 for a total of $599,716 while Kossuth only spent $92,998.
- County assessor offices - Hancock budgeted $242,919 and Winnebago $280,247. Kossuth was $294,430.
Sooner or later we are going to have to face the fact our current county governmental systems are unsustainable. The population of our three counties peaked 70 years ago at 56,004. We are now at 37,760, or one-third less.
I have no problem using another county's budget to prove my point - serious money could be saved.