Northeast Iowa Community College leaders are looking to decrease its property tax levy for the second year in a row.

NICC Executive Director of Finance Heidi Herold told members of the Board of Trustees Jan. 20 of a proposal to decrease the college’s tax rate by about 8 cents per $1,000 of taxable valuation — to about 95 cents — for the 2021 fiscal year. The owner of an average-valued property would save about $14 annually.

President Liang Chee Wee said NICC finance officials “have helped us ... only levy what we need from our taxpayers.”

Herold and Dave Dahms, vice president of finance and administration, shared with the board a proposed $87.7 million certified budget to be submitted to the state for the 2021 fiscal year. Board members set a public hearing on the budget for Feb. 17.

Dahms outlined several positive opportunities and challenges impacting the school’s budget.

Among positive developments are a 2% increase in the college’s tax base, the continued traction of new kinds of course offerings and a bump in state aid in the current fiscal year.

Challenges include a low unemployment rate, a declining number of degree-seeking students and more of those students taking classes part time.

Wee noted that more than 70% of NICC’s students take classes on a part-time basis and that low unemployment means a lot of the college’s students are also working.

“It’s a good thing in terms of people able to pay bills, but at the same time, it impacts us,” Wee said.

Though officials are projecting a slight decline in tuition revenue from credit-earning students, they project an overall increase in tuition revenue coming from business and community solutions and concurrent enrollment.

Also Jan. 20, board members approved a resolution to authorize the issuance of up to about $29.7 million in bonds for projects being funded by a $39 million levy renewal.

A $1.9 million renovation at Town Clock Business Center in Dubuque started earlier this month, said Rhonda Seibert, associate vice president for operations. The project includes improvements to classrooms, restrooms and the building entrance.

Meanwhile, an extensive renovation planned for the Peosta campus is now in the construction design phase, Seibert said. She was hopeful that design documents would be ready for the project to go out for bid in mid-March, so work on the project can start this summer.

She also showed board members initial concept drawings of the new main entrance of the Peosta campus’ main building and other plans for the interior.

“It’s going to be an exciting year,” she said.