City departments justify funding uses to council


Jacob Rice

Ames City Manager Steven Schainker listens to a concerned citizen on Jan. 24.

Cleo Westin, Politics Reporter

The Ames City Council reviewed certain aspects of the proposed budget, which does not account for the potential changes to the sales and property tax by the legislature.

City Manager Steve Schainker said the council should look at programs and activities because they may have to make some difficult decisions depending on what happens at the legislature.

Mayor John Haila also had concerns about further property and sales tax reform. He said he was not trying to cry wolf about the issue but that it is important to look at the possible impact of new legislation. 

While Ames plans to continue with their normal budget schedule, Haila said Cedar Rapids postponed its Tuesday budget hearing due to the profound impact of new legislation. 

“In five years plus as being mayor, I have never seen anything like it before, and some people who have experience down at the statehouse have not seen anything like this before, too,” Haila said.

Law Enforcement 

Within the 3.4% proposed increase in public safety spending, law enforcement is budgeted over $300,000 more than last year, or a 2.9% increase. 

There were 2,771 mental health calls in 2022, over 500 more than in 2021. The Alternative Response to Community Health (ARCH) pilot program responds to aid mental health calls with social workers and EMTs instead of police. Currently, the programs allocated funds for another year are within the general fund projects, which was a point of contention Friday with ongoing revenue cuts. 

Ames Police Chief Geoff Huff said the police department had replaced its body cameras, originally purchased in 2018, with a second generation.

“Our first generation lasted about five years,” Huff said. “We’re starting to see some failures in both battery and some of the other equipment.”

The Ames Resident Police Advisory Committee will begin to transition from the training phase to policy evaluation, complaint evaluation and increased outreach efforts.

There were 23,000 parking tickets last year, which Huff said is a return to pre-pandemic levels. The city has had over $500,000 in uncollected parking ticket fines in the past ten years. 

“It’s just amazing to me how we could use that money again to offset some expenses,” Haila said. 

Huff said the parking enforcement would be close to breaking even if it collected every parking ticket annually. 

Animal Control

The shelter is experiencing the highest increase in live animals since 2005 but has maintained a 98% live release rate, including record-high live releases for cats and dogs at 98.92%. 

The budget does not allocate funds toward a new animal shelter, but city documents state that the next fiscal year will be spent updating cost estimates for a new shelter and exploring how other cities have financed new shelters. 


The water utility user rate is budgeted to increase by 8% this year, which city documents based on financial projections and user rate increases. Director of the Ames Water & Pollution Control Administration John Dunn justifies this increase with cost increases for lime, chlorine and fluoride and increased demand due to drought conditions. This budget also includes water utility increases of 9% in FY 2025/26 and FY 2027/28. 

Currently, there are no budgeted rate increases for electric, sanitary sewer, stormwater and resource recovery utilities. 

There was a 9.6% increase in the water pollution and control budget, giving the largest increase to water plant operations which already has a plurality of the water pollution and control budget. These operations include lift stations, residual solids management and flood warning program maintenance. 

The sanitary sewer maintenance system maintains water distribution and sewer collection lines in Ames and is budgeted for a 9.4% increase.

Ames resource recovery, which partners with Iowa State and a dozen local municipalities, was slated for a 7.6% increase, but the largest percent change was a 25.8% decrease in landfill monitoring which is already the smallest budgeted activity in resource recovery. 

Dunn said he was proud of the diversity and student operators. 

“Our operating team is 50% female right now, and I’d be willing to bet there’s not another major utility in the country that can boast an operation team with that sort of diversity,” Dunn said. 


The budget calls for an 11.1% increase in the operating budget and a 22.6% increase in expenditures for the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). 

The city would start replacing signage at the airport after the Federal Aviation Association’s final approval to rename the airport to James H. Banning Ames Municipal Airport. 

Downtown Ames would begin transitioning their parking meters to accept all types of payment, including credit cards, and cover two parking spots rather than one.

Fleet & Facilities 

Fleet services are budgeted for a 17.2% increase, with the largest increase going to fleet acquisitions. As part of the Climate Action Plan (CAP), the city is looking to buy more electric vehicles. However, Ames Director of Fleet Management Corey Mellies said the electric car market is a luxury right now, and they are not readily available nor at the pricing they want. He said he is considering buying cars like the Chevy Bolt and Ford Lightning.

The fleet is already shifting toward more efficient and electric vehicles. The city currently has six hybrid Ford Explorers police vehicles and 12 snow plows that run on B100 fuel. Police Chief Huff noted the city is still waiting on more Ford Explorers, and the delivery date has been delayed due to supply chain issues. 

The fleet services do not include CyRide vehicles.

Library Services

The Ames Public Library was proposed to get approximately a 5% increase in its total budget. The largest percentage increase was in adult services, which encompasses civic engagement programs, personal enrichment and delivery of materials to homebound residents and senior living centers.