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Old 12-14-2017, 04:01 PM
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Default Anticipating state cuts, VA board approves reduced budget

As legislators prepare to head back into session next year, one of the first issues they’ll have to tackle is the state’s looming budget shortfall, which some experts are predicting will be nearly $100 million. That could mean cuts to a number of state programs, including some funding for the Jasper County Veterans Affairs office.

Currently, the Jasper County Veterans Affairs office receives a yearly $9,750 grant from the state of Iowa. The money is intended to help increase the amount of administration and outreach available in each county. Jasper County Veterans Affairs Director Kurt Jackson said his office had previously received $10,000 a year, but state budget cuts last year have lowered the amount of the grant. Jackson said he’s concerned those funds might be on the chopping block as legislators look to balance the budget.

“We’re worried that they’re going to cut it again,” Jackson said. “They cut it last year in an attempt to balance the budget.”

Commissioner Marta Ford said she plans to visit with Rep. Wes Breckenridge, D-Newton, and Sen. Chaz Allen, D-Newton, to make sure they understand the how important the grant is to the veterans affairs office.

Jackson said he’s known it’s possible that state funds may not be available which is why he’s reduced his budget for the upcoming fiscal year. In fiscal year 2018, the Jasper County Veterans Affairs office had an approved budget of $98,525 which Jackson has cut down to $95,068 in his proposed budget for fiscal year 2019. While he’s made some cuts, Jackson has also tried to make increases to his budget where he’s found the best return on investment. On Wednesday, Jackson told the commissioners he’d like to continue running advertisements in the Newton Daily News, he’s found it’s been an effective tool for getting into contact with local veterans.

“I think the advertising is helping this office a lot,” Jackson said. “I’m trying to stir up interest, I’m trying to get these people to come in and see me.”

Commissioners also discussed a proposal to update the selection process to bring Jasper County in line with Iowa’s state code in terms of making appointments to the board of veterans affairs. Jackson said he’s presented his proposal to the Jasper County Board of Supervisors, but so far they’ve tabled the motion. Currently, commissioners are appointed by the county board of supervisors, but Jackson said that doesn’t match the way other counties in Iowa select new members for the VA board. Most use an application process, which Jackson said is designed to help ensure the board maintains it’s equal opportunity requirements. To meet this goal, Jackson has developed an application process, and when a member of the VA board is nearing the end of their term Jackson will begin the process of advertising for new members. The five members of the VA board each serve a three-year term, staggered to limit turnover.

Ford said she’s hoping the board of supervisors will take action on the proposal soon.

“If they tabled it, that means they aren’t doing anything with it,” Ford said. “Kurt [Jackson] can’t hire his own boss, that doesn’t make sense.”

Commissioners are concerned time is running out to get a selection process in place. During its November meeting, commissioner Jerome Gunderson announced he plans to leave the board next year, and Ford indicated she may consider stepping down as well.

Jackson said he thought the proposal was a “slam dunk” and said he’s not sure why the board of supervisors hasn’t taken the issue up yet.

“All we’re trying to do is help them and do it the way the Iowa code says,” Jackson said.

Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or ddolmage@newtondailynews.com




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