- Associated Press - Monday, March 3, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Several Iowa counties have issues going before voters Tuesday, with some aimed at reallocating local tax money and others at determining bond issues for new facilities.

In Des Moines, voters will decide whether to approve an increase in the fee charged on their utility bills to repay $40 million the city borrowed to pay a court-ordered refund of previously over-collected franchise fees between 2004 and 2009.

City officials said if the voters don’t approve the increased fee, the city would be forced to increase property taxes to repay the money.

“We have no choice. It’s not something we can do through budget cuts and layoffs. We have to have a consistent revenue stream to pay the judgment,” Councilman Chris Coleman told The Des Moines Register.

The repayment is required after a lawsuit was filed by Lisa Kragnes, of Des Moines, who noticed a fee on her utility bill in 2004 and objected to it, calling it an illegal tax. She won the case through numerous appeals. Her attorney, Brad Schroeder, also of Des Moines, has said the city doesn’t need to increase the fee or taxes and could cut costs instead.

In Story County, voters in Ames will decide whether to approve borrowing up to $19 million to pay the city’s share of a convention center development at Iowa State University.

The entire project will cost $38 million. The university would pick up the remaining $19 million.

Bond issues also are on the ballot in Pottawattamie County where $1.5 million is proposed for a veteran’s administration building next to the courthouse, and in Winnebago County where up to $5.3 million is on the ballot for a public safety center.

Voters in Jefferson County will decide whether to change the way money collected from a 1 percent local sales and service tax is spent. Currently, 80 percent is used for property tax relief and 20 percent for county roads. The proposal is to use 64 percent for property tax relief, 20 percent for bridges and culverts, and 16 percent for up to $1 million for the construction of a recreation facility and outdoor swimming pool in Fairfield.

In Buchanan County, voters in Fairbank also will decide whether to change the spending from a local option sales tax. Currently, half has been allocated for construction of a swimming pool and half for storm sewer improvements. The vote will decide whether 70 percent will be used for Main Street improvements and 30 percent for storm sewers.

The swimming pool project initially funded with the tax has been completed.

Vacant city council seats will be filled in Inwood in Lyon County and Mt. Union in Henry County.

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