State Auditor visits Waukon as part of his Town Hall Tour

State of Iowa Auditor Rob Sand visits Waukon ...
State of Iowa Auditor Rob Sand visits Waukon ... State of Iowa Auditor Rob Sand addressed a small crowd in the Waukon City Park Thursday morning, September 15 as part of his 100 Town Hall Tour across the state of Iowa. Sand spoke about the role of the State of Iowa Auditor’s office, the Public Innovations and Efficiencies (PIE) program he created, and recent investigations completed by his office, in addition to answering questions from those in attendance. Standard photo by Joe Moses.

by Joe Moses

State of Iowa Auditor Rob Sand met with Allamakee County residents during a Thursday, September 15 town hall meeting held near the Allamakee County Freedom Rock in the Waukon City Park as part of his 100 Town Hall Tour. A small group of residents were in attendance for this morning meeting, the first of six such meetings scheduled for Sand that day with remaining stops in Clayton, Dubuque, Delaware, Buchanan and Fayette Counties.

Sand opened the meeting with discussion of the State of Iowa Auditor’s role and the importance of transparency. He discussed holding public institutions and various levels of government accountable. When questioned about what tools are available in holding government accountable, Sand responded that investigation and reporting to the public are the two most important tools used by his office in creating transparency and accountability.

An example discussed by Sand involved the 2021 Iowa Supreme Court 7-0 decision in his favor requiring the University of Iowa to provide requested documentation relating to a planned 50-year public/private partnership with a consortium for the operation of campus utilities. Sand described this partnership as one of the largest financial transactions in state history with the University of Iowa receiving over $1.1 billion up front and paying back $2.5 billion over the 50-year agreement. Sand explained that the Iowa Supreme Court sided with the State Auditor’s office with this documentation request being appropriate and within his office’s role. Sand added that the requested information has been received, with that report to be completed soon.

Sand moved into discussion of the bipartisan multi-state COVID-19 audit that took place after questions were raised relating to the changing numbers of positive cases reported at the state level for specific dates. Sand explained that several State Auditors were involved in this process and investigation with information and data being shared. In looking into this matter, Sand advised that the State administrations were adding test data for the appropriate test dates as required and that the problem or changing report numbers related to the delays seen due to test analysis being over capacity and creating a backlog at both public and private labs that simply were not ready for the volume or number of tests submitted.

Sand noted that this investigation and report accounts for the changing positive COVID-19 case numbers reported by the State of Iowa and has been made available and shared with the public. He noted that the State of Iowa handled this reporting appropriately with positive case numbers added when information was received, and data was then entered for correct dates, with lab testing delays the cause of reporting delays.

Sand moved into discussion of the State’s PIE Program, which he explained stands for the Public Innovations and Efficiencies Program. Sand noted that this program began in 2019 and applies to cities, counties and school districts with a checklist being sent out each year to assist these entities in finding ways to be more efficient and save money each year and these efficiencies being shared by all. Sand added that cost saving measures shared by participating local governments and school districts are included in a PIE Chart sent out each year, with the program growing from 300 participants to 500 in the last year.

Allamakee County Democrats co-chairperson Karen Pratte questioned Sand about his role in relation to county auditors. Sand advised that county auditors are elected independently with his office providing guidance and issuing standards relating to their audit requirements. Sand advised that his role involves oversight with there being good relationships with most county auditors and elected officials across the state.

Lowell Engle questioned Sand about what can be done at the State level to more efficiently remove deceased individuals from the Social Security rolls. Sand noted that county auditors are doing a good job in updating records relating to the deceased with a statewide database being available relating to births and deaths. Sand recommended that Engle follow up with the Allamakee County Auditor’s office for more information, with record keeping at the county level likely being first to be updated.

Sand next addressed a question relating to the concept of a flat income tax as suggested by politician and publishing executive Steve Forbes in the past. Sand noted that earlier this year, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds had signed into law a tax reform bill establishing a 3.9 percent flat income tax rate which will be fully enacted by 2028.

Sand noted that state tax on retirement income will be eliminated as part of this change with some lower income individuals to pay more than before and some upper income individuals to pay less than before, with most Iowans to not notice much of a change relating to their income taxes.