Candidates for Story County supervisor address approaches to assessing tax rates


Courtesy of the Story County website

The Story County Administrative building is located in Nevada, Iowa.

Katherine Kealey, Editor in Chief

As Story County has lowered the tax rate over the last few years, Democratic candidate Lisa Heddens said the needs of the public are still being maintained, while Republican candidate for county supervisor Kara Warme said the best way to grow the county’s budget is through promoting economic growth.

Warme and Heddens, the incumbent, are running for the two seats up for election on the Story County Board of Supervisors in the Nov. 8 midterm. The other two candidates are Linda Murken and James Wright. The two candidates with the highest votes win.

The levy rate is the lowest it has been in 20 years. Heddens said the current board still works to ensure that services, such as public safety, mental health, recreation and the environment, are all maintained.

“We have really tried to work at identifying the needs of Story County,” Heddens said. “There’s always wants out there, but it’s really what are the needs.”

Heddens said the board uses information from past expenditures of each department to determine budget requests. As required by state law, the county has maintained a balanced budget, Heddens said.

“We really can get to be very conscientious and get a good justification as to why those dollars are needed,” Heddens said. “So that is what I want to continue to do.”

Warme said the last couple of fiscal years has been atypical because of the influx of one-time funds from the federal government. 

Kara Warme is one of four candidates running for the Story County Board of Supervisors. (Courtesy of Dan McClanahan)

Warme has a master’s degree in business administration. She said she is pleased with the tax decrease, and the best way to grow the budget is through investing in economic development and being pro-business. This approach would allow the county to grow the tax base to then invest in human services such as ASSET, infrastructure and quality of life. 

“I think it’s really important that we think about those tax dollars and manage the county budget like a family budget,” Warme said. “Making sure that you’re spending the money the way that you would spend your own and that you’re really looking at spending closely. Nobody’s in a position to give extra money to the government right now.”

Due to the current inflationary environment, Warme said it is important to allocate federal funding with a sense of urgency to ensure the county isn’t sitting on money. In addition, Warme plans to prioritize outdoor recreation.

Priorities if elected

While mental health is not a unique problem, Warme said what is unique is the high population of college students and young adults who experience higher incidents of mental illness.

Heddens also said access to mental health services is a priority if she is re-elected. Prior to serving as a supervisor, Heddens served in the House of the Iowa Legislature, where she worked on mental health disability issues. She also represents Story County on the Central Iowa Community Services Regional Mental Health and Developmental Disability governing board.

Warme said she wants to emphasize the need for the county to partner with Iowa State to create an environment where people can access help. Affordable housing in both rural and urban settings is another issue Warme would address. 

Lisa Heddens one of two incumbents running Story County Board of Supervisors. (Courtesy of Lisa Heddens)

Heddens wants to continue to examine infrastructure and public transportation in the county. As the cities within Story County grow in population, Heddens said economic development has to be a priority. While serving as a supervisor, Heddens said the county ran a housing study that helped identify the housing needs.

The coronavirus pandemic exposed the need for broadband in the state. Heddens said she is looking forward to receiving more information from the updated broadband maps so the county can pinpoint where funds are needed.

Carbon pipelines to traverse the county

Warme said while supervisors have the role of protecting property owners’ rights and keeping the public safe, the pipelines are also coming through Story County because of the agricultural and ethanol economy. 

“I think that we want to be, at a broader level, encouraging the sustainability of agriculture in our county,” Warme said. “So really taking advantage of the innovation that’s happening at Iowa State and across our county—to be always preparing for the future and looking forward to the best solutions for sustainability and for the robustness of agriculture in our state.”

Heddens said the current board voted on an ordinance to implement setbacks to prevent the construction of pipelines with hazardous materials near public spaces.

“The Utilities Board will make that determination of whether it can go through,” Heddens said. “We’re just looking at ways to protect the citizens, the health and safety of citizens and to make sure their land is protected as well.”

The Iowa Utilities Board determines what does and does not qualify for eminent domain. Warme said, as an elected official, it will be her job to follow the policy and to make sure people are safe within the guidelines. 

“I won’t be the one to make that choice,” Warme said. “But I will be someone who has a listening ear who wants to see the data and science and proof for things that we’re doing and things that we’re investing in.”

Water quality

Warme said she would like to see education on water quality in addition to government regulation. Initiatives could include partnerships between growers, agriculture organizations and Iowa State to use the latest research to help farmers. Warme said it is also important to ensure the county is taking transparent and scientific approaches to water quality issues because the problem is not isolated to agriculture.

Both Heddens and Warme noted one water quality issue the county faced was due to geese manure.

Heddens said the county can address water quality issues with nutrient reduction programs to prevent high levels of phosphate and nitrate. While there are federal regulations, Heddens said the county should assess whether or not county regulations can go beyond those standards to protect Story County’s water.

“Farmers want to have a good supply for their fields,” Heddens said. “They want to be good stewards of the land… Whatever practices that we can put in place are going to benefit us all.”

Reaching constituents

Heddens has also met with local organizations and groups and has been door-knocking nearly every day to hear voters’ concerns.

“I’ve taken my ability to work across party lines and just kind of my patience [and] my analytical side to really look at issues and bring them to fruition,” Heddens said. “And I brought that to the county level as well.” 

In addition to door-knocking, Warme has met with business owners and city officials from various counties. Warme did a T-shirt fundraiser to support a portion of her campaign.

“I would love to move away from partisan divisiveness and focus on talking to each other and celebrating what we have in common,” Warme said.

Editor’s note: Read the Iowa State Daily’s reporting on the other two candidates running for the Story County Board of Supervisors, James Wright and Linda Murken.