Buchanan County Tax Levies: Economic Health of our Communities

Click here to see a comparison of your community’s property tax levy:  Buchanan Cities 2015 Property Tax Comparison

The Economic Health of Buchanan County

Are Buchanan County communities thriving economically? Good questions were recently asked at an Independence City Council meeting regarding “excessive” tax burdens and the need for more jobs in our communities. In a broader sense, the questions raise issues about the financial health of our communities. Let me address some aspects of the discussion.

Are “high” city tax levies driving away businesses? Research shows that a city’s tax levy has minimal impact on a business’s decision on where to locate. The combination of all local, corporate and state taxes will have a greater bearing on business decisions and the overall cost of conducting business. The tax levy of Buchanan County cities ranks very favorably when compared to communities of comparable size. I compared the tax levy of each community with the 12 Iowa cities closest in size. Winthrop and Hazleton have the 2nd lowest tax levy when compared to the 13 cities in their population demographics. Independence and Fairbank have the 3rd lowest taxes in their respective group of 13 communities. Aurora and Quasqueton the 4th lowest tax levy. Rowley, Brandon and Jesup have the 7th lowest with Lamont ranked 10 and Stanley 11th. See the full results by clicking on the link at the top of the page.  In terms of the overall cost of doing business in Iowa, CNBC’s 2016 rankings of the Top States for Business lists Iowa as the 2nd best state for the overall cost of doing business.

There is little business growth in Buchanan County: Quite the opposite is happening. Based on available data, there are more people employed in Buchanan County than ever before. Over 1,400 are directly employed in manufacturing with nearly 10,000 more employed in health care, agriculture, transportation, education, professional services, retail and utilities. Two new companies, Hog Slats and Meridian Distribution, have opened businesses in Independence and creating new jobs. Most importantly existing businesses have made sizable expansion investments leading to new hiring. Geater Machining, Pries Enterprises, Wapsie Valley Creamery and Tysons have invested $ millions in equipment, technology and facility expansion to enable them to be competitive for the future. Manufactures in Jesup, Brandon, Quasqueton, Stanley, Fairbank and Winthrop are also adding jobs. Many businesses are purchasing equipment and investing in research to create new products, services and jobs.

Challenges facing BuchananCounty? If you are not constantly moving forward, you will soon be left behind. While we are doing relatively well in Buchanan County we can always do better and there are shortcomings that need addressing. The number one challenge for business expansion is finding qualified workers. The county unemployment rate is 3.3% with Iowa’s rate at 3.4% and business cannot grow if they cannot find needed employees. Secondly, there is a lack of decent and affordable housing and this directly impacts the ability to attract and keep employees. The BCEDC has submitted a RFP for a county-wide housing study to quantify housing shortages. Once a housing needs assessment has been completed, communities can then pursue grants and low interest loans to help private builders construct affordable housing options. Next, we must continue to promote shovel-ready development ground for new business construction. Forty-three % of responding businesses in Buchanan County and the Cedar Valley region said they have no room for expansion at their current location. If we want to keep businesses in our towns and attract new companies, we must have sites upon which they can build.