Ames approves RAGBRAI ordinance, budget but not final levy rate


Jacob Rice

Ward 2 Rep. Tim Gartin watches a presentation on Jan. 24.

The council gave first approval on ordinances for RAGBRAI and joined other Iowa cities in officially postponing their max levy rate approval.

The reasoning comes from city staff believing Senate File 181 will become law, which Mayor John Haila said would adjust the rollback rate. This means Ames would lose $775,000 in revenue, and the city would raise the levy rate to make up for lost revenue.

The bill currently is in the House after the Senate unanimously approved the bill. Haila said Gov. Kim Reynolds has indicated she would sign the bill if it reaches her desk.

City Manager Steve Schainker said if a bill were to pass capping a levy rate increase, the city would be forced to make cuts.

“[If the legislature lowers] the amount of revenue we can collect and [if] they’re also capping the amount, we can raise taxes, so we can’t go back and offset that,” Schainker said. “If we lose a million dollars, we can’t just raise taxes a million dollars; therefore, they’re forcing us to make cuts in our budget.”

Director of Finance Corey Goodenow said the city would delay the hearing process as long as possible to account for additional changes. The bill gives cities until the end of April to submit budgets replacing the usual end-of-March deadline.

Ward 2 Rep. Tim Gartin was concerned about public input surrounding the levy rate.

“I respectfully don’t want to do this at the last hour,” Gartin said. “I want to have at least some opportunity to give the community an opportunity to speak into any proposed cuts.”

Haila responded, saying the city would have to follow Iowa law which requires public hearings on the issue.

“Even if not required, I would still say let’s have public input [where] we identify what the cuts are going to be and get public input before your final decision is made,” Haila said.

The council unanimously approved the fiscal year 2023/24 budget and the 2023-28 Capital Improvement Plan. Changes to both items may be made if the legislature passes legislation in addition to SF 181.

There was one amendment that was unanimously approved to the budget brought forth by At-Large Rep. Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen to accommodate a request from Main Street Ames.

Their request was for funds to go toward parking waivers during special events, which will fund the waivers through the hotel-motel tax.

The council also approved a motion from Beatty-Hansen to spend $10,000 on the Home Allies housing project

“If that Home Allies project gets off the ground, $10,000 is not that much compared to the amount we’re spending for our affordable housing efforts elsewhere,” Beatty-Hansen said. “To me, it seems like a fair amount to add to what we’ve already committed.”


The council approved a first passage to suspend certain ordinances to accommodate bikers during the 50th RAGBRAI.

The suspended ordinances would be for July 24 through 26 and would allow overnight camping in parks and put RAGBRAI organizers in charge of street vending — which would temporarily suspend the 10% city revenue fee and allow temporary outdoor alcohol service in an official RAGBRAI beverage garden.

“I think I speak for council that we’re all thrilled RAGBRAI is coming back,” Haila said. “We had feedback from people in 2018, and there was objections, and we’re just trying to get out ahead of that so we don’t have people coming back after an ordinance has passed.

President of Discover Ames Kevin Bourke said the organization is actively working with RAGBRAI on a concert venue and will be reaching out to downtown Ames businesses soon.

Director of Main Street Ames Crystal Davis said businesses have been notified of the proposed ordinance changes and have had discussions with owners about RAGBRAI.

“The complaints I got were ‘How early are you going to shut the street down? I need to know where to park my employees,’ [and] ‘Your entertainment last time was not local enough,’” Davis said.

Bourke said that safety inside and outside of downtown Ames restaurants this year is important with a projected significant increase in bikers.

RAGBRAI organizers are attempting to break the record on the trip from Ames to Des Moines of the largest single-day bike ride with over 100,000 bikers. The current record was set in Italy with 48,615 bikers. The last time Ames was an overnight stop on RAGBRAI was in 2018 and 18,000 bikers participated.