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Newscast 5.8.2024: New Woodbury County budget gives elected officials 3% raises, sheriff makes $174K; Iowa to sue federal government rule on gender identity; Noem's book differs from investigation into Ravnsborg crash

Woodbury County Supervisor Mathew Ung at the September 5, 2023 board meeting
Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird

The Woodbury County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a new budget for the 2025 fiscal year that includes 3 percent raises for all elected officials.

The budget totals $65 million and has a lessened property tax rate, county board chairman Matthew Ung shared in a social media post.

“For the 10th year in a row, the Woodbury County Board has certified a budget that reduces or keeps flat the countywide tax rate,” Ung said.

The property tax rate was set for town property owners at $7.11 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation, and $9.52 per $1,000 for rural owners.

The 3 percent raises will move the annual pay of the county supervisors from $40,745 to $41,967.

The new salaries for other Woodbury County officials will be $174,618 for Sheriff Chad Sheehan, $165,830 for County Attorney James Loomis, and $111,600 for both Auditor Pat Gill and Treasurer Tina Bertrand.

In other news that came out of the weekly count supervisors meeting, the much-delayed completion of the new Woodbury County jail building is set for early July. Board chairman Ung said a third-party review of details shows that an entity with some oversight tasks is not at fault for delays.

The county hired The Baker Group as the so-called owner representative role of the jail, which has ballooned from a cost of $54 million to $70 million after many delays. More than 30 missing fire dampers in late summer 2023 delayed the opening from September.

Ung said the third-party review definitively showed Baker had no liability for the missing dampers. There have been other jail components that caused delays.

Additionally, Iowa is joining 20 other states suing to block changes to federal rules against sex discrimination in education.

The rules finalized by the U.S. Department of Education clarified that gender identity is indeed covered under Title IX protections.

That rule would put into question Iowa’s ban on transgender girls participating in girls’ sports, plus another Iowa law that requires students to use school bathrooms according to their gender assigned at birth.

Opponents say those two laws create a hostile environment for Iowa trans and non-binary students.

In a statement, Attorney General Brenna Bird called the Title IX changes a “radical gender ideology mandate.” Governor Kim Reynolds, who like Bird is a Republican, on Tuesday voiced support for Iowa pushing back to block the federal rules before they take effect in August.

In other news, in her new book, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem wrote that former Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg was on his phone when he struck and killed a man along Highway 14 in September 2020.

The account in Noem’s new book, "No Going Back," is different from findings in the investigation by the state Department of Public Safety.

“The ensuing investigation revealed he was reading an article on his cell phone when his car hit a man who was walking on the side of the roadway,” Noem wrote.

The state Highway Patrol found Ravnsborg was on his phone for most of his two-hour drive home from a Republican fundraiser.However, investigators said the former Attorney General’s screen was off and phone was locked as he entered the town of Highmore.

The fatal crash occurred after Ravnsborg drove through town, with a population of just over 600, striking Joe Boever.

The incident resulted in the Republican Attorney General getting impeached and permanently barred from ever holding state office. Ravnsborg is the first South Dakota official to get impeached.

Ravnsborg’s criminal defense lawyer, Tim Rensch, on Tuesday said Noem’s claim in her book is totally wrong.