A report by two advocacy groups says local governments are being squeezed by rising healthcare costs and declining state funding. Peter Fisher is the research director for the Iowa Policy Project in Mount Vernon which conducted the study along with the Child and Family Policy Center in Des Moines. He says city and county governments are mostly about personel and he says fringe benefit costs have been rising dramatically. For counties, he says their health care costs have gone up 78 percent and cities have seen double-digit insurance increases. He says many local governments weathered the state funding cuts by raising property taxes. He says property tax rates have gone up six percent overall. He says fees and charges have gone up too, as that’s where cities have more flexibility. He says some cities have laid off or cut personel. Fisher says residents find they’re paying more for just about everything they do. He says everything from plumber’s permits to board of adjustment fees to tennis lesson fees and swimming pool admissions. He says, for example, the city of Des Moines has some 50 fees and has raised every one of them. Fisher says the state budget cuts have essentially resulted in a tax shift from income taxes to property taxes. He cites Scott County as an example. Fisher says they lost $1.3 million in state funding and during the same period raised property taxes by $3.2 million. This is the fourth in a series of reports from the two groups outlining how budget cuts have impacted cities and counties in Iowa.
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