Lee County's budget for the upcoming fiscal year has proven to be the latest battleground for the debate over returning driver's license services in Keokuk.
The Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to approve the preliminary budget and to set a public hearing for 9:01 A.M. on Tuesday, March 11.
The two supervisors who represent Keokuk, Matt Pflug (District 5) & Gary Folluo (District 4), voted against the nearly $40-million dollar spending plan, which shows a deficit of more than $1-million.
Pflug says his biggest issue with the budget is that it does not include money to restore driver's license services to Keokuk, after they were removed several years ago.
"That is the way it used to be and it worked fine," says Pflug. "You are not putting any more money on the table and they know you are going to be in Keokuk two days each week. It would work."
Folluo says he agrees with the need to restore services for at least two days per week.
Both men also say they oppose the fact that the budget includes nearly $80,000 to build a new shower facility at one county park at a time when the entire spending plan is more than $1.2-million in the red.
Chairman Ernie Schiller (District 3) cast one of the yes votes for the spending plan, along with Supervisors Rick Larkin (District 2) and Supervisor Ron Fedler (District1).
Schiller says he supports the preliminary budget, despite the deficit spending and an $0.85 increase in the property tax rate.
"I think this is a good budget," says Schiller. "I think the main thing I am looking at in this budget is we are trying to push some infrastructure forward. I am happy, (but) I am not happy with the vote, but it is what it is."
The discussion came one day after State Senator Rich Taylor (D-Mt. Pleasant) announced that he would not be pursing legislation to restore county services to Keokuk.
He says he could not generate enough support to introduce the bill in Des Moines. He also received an informal opinion from the state Attorney General's Office that the county's decision to close services several years ago was legal.
Taylor says he would like to see the county restore the driver's license facility in Keokuk as a sign of good faith.