Contentious Iowa Council meeting ends with abrupt adjournment

Published 12:13 pm Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The Iowa Town Council meeting on Monday ended in abrupt adjournment during discussions of the fiscal year 2024-25 operating budget.

The introduction of the budget was originally addressed at a special meeting on June 3, but the matter was tabled, according to the June 3 meeting minutes.

Most citizens at the June 10 meeting vocalized concern over the proposed Iowa Police Department’s budget, stating that a reduction in the IPD budget could lead to a decrease in police protection. One citizen in attendance asked, “How are we going to protect more people with less money with the cost of everything going up every day?”

Email newsletter signup

Iowa Police Chief Howard “Keith” Vincent said he was “slightly confused” about the $2 million proposed budget total for the police department because it did not align with his budget projections.

The budget for 2023-24 was $2,043,404. In 2022-23 it was $1,937,828. Vincent noted that the $43,000 decrease could cause issues because IPD was already 3.3 percent over budget by April of this year.

Iowa Mayor Neal Watkins said that his goal is to find balance in the budget and that he cannot give the police department an “open checkbook.”

“I’m not trying to equate the police department to a satellite bill. What I’m saying is that we’ve all been affected by price increases. We’ve been affected over the past two years with declines in revenues,” he explained. “Prices are going up, and we’ve got income going down. It’s very difficult to make ends meet.”

He told the American Press on Tuesday since he has taken office, the budget has been cut in several areas, including administration and maintenance.

“We’ve cut it as far back as we can, to the bone.”

The administration budget for 2022-23 was $485,476. For 2023-24 it was $548,867. The proposed administration budget for 2024-25 is $745,629.

He explained that the only place the town can cut back is the police department.

“Going back to even 2018, the only thing the police budget has done is grown, grown, grown, grown. … We cannot continue to spend the money that we’re spending and expect us to come out on the positive side. We cannot create a budget that is inflated in areas so that we can spend money that we don’t have.”

In the past two years, Iowa has seen a decrease in revenues: 12.6 percent in 2022-23 and 14.3 percent in 2023-24. In his budget message, Watkins said that he has (like last year) reduced anticipated revenues to a level that “reflects a lower revenue total than the parish his indicated.” The parish’s projected revenue reduction is 3 percent.

This steady decline in revenue prohibits spending increases which would be “detrimental to the Town of Iowa,” he said to The American Press.


Amid budget discussion, the council quietly adjourned the meeting. This motion was met with discontent from those in attendance.

Watkins told the American Press he had no power over the council’s vote to adjourn.

He said he was “disappointed” that those in attendance at the meeting “can not realize that we can’t spend more revenue than we have and every dollar that we spend needs to be accounted for.”

“There’s a lot of animosity that has built up over the fact that I will not deviate from making sure that the dollars that we spend in the Town of Iowa go to benefit all members of this town,” he said. “I’m not here to play to politics. I’m not here to play their game.”

At the previous two meetings, he and the council were met with “unrest” and a lack of “civility,” he recalled.

“If we can’t have open, respectful conversations, it’s not getting anybody anywhere.”

Joshua Macer– who ran in the Iowa mayoral election in 2022 – was in attendance at the meeting. In an email statement to the American Press, he said “there were at least four people” with their hands up to speak or ask questions about the budget when the meeting was adjourned.

He agreed that the citizens “should have maintained decorum,” but noted rising tensions.

“People are tired of being ignored and overlooked by the mayor. They want their voices heard,” he said. “In the minds of the residents in attendance, the early adjournment only proved that the mayor and administration do not care about their voices or opinions.”

The Iowa Town Council will meet for a special meeting at 7 p.m. on June 25 to readdress the budget.