May 2011

The U.S. and Iowa constitutions require redistricting every ten years following the U.S. Census.  The State of Iowa completed its process in mid April this year, and Scott County has begun its share of the redistricting process.  Due to redistricting significant changes are coming for some Scott County voters. Overall, the Auditor’s Office expects that Scott County might gain four precincts, and possibly more.

To kick off this process on April 29, 2011 the Auditor’s Office hosted a meeting of those jurisdictions needing to redistrict. We covered the criteria for redistricting, including contiguousness, compactness and population variance. We also reviewed the need to account for voter convenience and electoral efficiency.

For the first time ever, the LeClaire City Council will need to divide the city into two precincts due to population growth pushing the city above the 3,500 person maximum precinct size. Leclaire will join three other Scott County municipalities Bettendorf, Davenport and Eldridge in needing to draw new precinct lines. Significant changes to ward and precinct lines is expected for all three cities due to population growth, population shift and the statewide redistricting plan passed by the legislature which substantially changed the area of local legislative districts. Davenport, Eldridge and LeClaire have completed preliminary plans.

In unincorporated Scott County, Buffalo Township and Butler Township precincts will need to be divided into new precincts due to population growth. Our preliminary plan will divide Butler Township into two precincts, a Park View precinct and a McCausland precinct. In Buffalo Township the preliminary plan is to have voters in the western part of the township vote with the voters of the city of Blue Grass precinct, while the rest of the township voters will remain in Buffalo Township precinct.

We also plan to add precincts for the cities of Donahue and Long Grove as legislative redistricting separated those cities from their surrounding townships.  Also, voters in the precincts of Allen’s Grove Township and Sheridan Township will have new voting locations due to the new legislative lines.  The Board of Supervisors will need to make final approval of any redistricting plan for Scott County.

On May 9, 2011 Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz announced that he has picked Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz to be a member of his newly formed Election Advisory Board.  Moritz will join nine other county auditors to help advise Secretary Schultz regarding election laws and procedures. 

“I am pleased to work with the Office of Secretary of State and other county auditors in advising Secretary Schultz on important issues in election laws and procedures. I hope that our committee can be a bridge of communication and cooperation between the Iowa State Association of County Auditors (ISACA) and Secretary’s Schultz Office. Our common goal must be to ensure fair and transparent elections in the interests of all Iowa voters,” said Auditor Moritz.

The Board is composed of five Democratic and five Republican county auditors, and balanced between rural counties and urban counties, and includes auditors from counties with a large state university versus a small private college.

“I am looking forward to working with such a dynamic group of individuals. This group has seasoned auditors as well as new auditors.  I believe that with the varying backgrounds of these auditors I will have the information I need to propose and support changes in election laws that are efficient, effective and provide the election security Iowans want and deserve,” said Secretary Schultz.

In a recent memo to the Board of Supervisors the Auditor’s Office documented cost savings or $2,800.00 per year and staff efficiency increases of $11,646.00 per year in the processing of real estate transfers into the county tax system.   Real estate transfers occur when property exchanges hands and the new owners record the deed, land contract or other legal transfer document with the Recorder’s Office.  Our office then records the transfer into the county’s tax system computer data base.

The savings came about as part of the LEAN analysis our office has undergone for various processes in the taxation department.   In 2010 the Auditor’s Office reduced staff by one FTE in the taxation department due in part to the anticipated roll out of the on-line version of GIS. To accommodate this loss of staff resources we adopted additional policy changes and physically reorganized the office to enhance productivity, including our new process for recording transfers into the tax system.
The old transfer process involved Recorder staff preparing and sorting original transfer documents, creating a daily delivery log to establish a chain of custody for these documents, and physically delivering them to Auditor staff.  We estimate that would take upwards of one hour daily. 

Auditor staff then made two copies of each document (one copy for the Assessor’s Office and one copy for our office), indexed these copies, hand delivered copies to the two Assessors’ Offices and returned the originals to the Recorder’s Office.  This document preparation took approximately two hours and twenty minutes each day.  Effectively, the Auditor staff assigned to this task spent more than 29 percent of her day in preparing transfer documents.  Recording transfers into the tax system often would lag for weeks after our receipt of transfer documents due to the time it took for document preparation.

Under the new process Recorder staff electronically send the transfer documents to our staff and the Assessors’ Offices.  County Facility and Support Services estimates the savings in copy costs plus miscellaneous supplies at $2,800.00 annually. 

Further this process allows for increased staff efficiency allowing our staff to process transfers into the tax system within 48 hours of receipt in our office.  Thus our office has been able to increase staff productivity by utilizing LEAN concepts and readily available technology.

The Auditor’s Office recently completed certification to the Iowa Department of Management for 49 local budgets for cities, schools, and other taxing bodies.  This is an annual event for our office.  The deadline for cities to submit their budgets is March 15th each year.  School districts must submit their budgets by April 15th.  There were no significant problems with any budget this year.

Pursuant to state law the Auditor’s Office is responsible for insuring that local governments follow proper procedures in adopting their budgets.  This includes the following:

Notices of Public Hearing Budget Estimates were lawfully published, notarized and filed proof was in evidence;

Budget hearing notices were published not less than 10 days nor more than 20 days before the budget hearing;

Adopted property taxes do not exceed the amounts published;

Adopted expenditures do not exceed the amounts published in each of several state defined program areas; and finally,

The electronically filed budget submitted by the local jurisdiction to the Department of Management matched the paper copy the local jurisdiction submitted to the Auditor’s Office.

Our office is not responsible for how local governments spend tax payer money.  We are responsible to insure that they gave notice to the public of what they plan for taxes and spending, gave notice to the public of when the public has the right to address local government about taxes and spending and finally that their budgets tax and spend no more than the amounts listed in their public notices.