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Iowa early News Headlines: Sat., Dec. 27th 2014

News

December 27th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — Five people were treated and released from a Waterloo hospital after being stabbed in a fight early Friday. KWWL reports that police say a fight broke out outside of a convenience store. Police say the five who were stabbed took themselves to Allen Hospital and were let go later Friday.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Des Moines plans to cut four jobs and adjust certain fees in an effort to erase a $405,000 projected deficit in the next fiscal year. The city will eliminate three vacant jobs and cut a fourth post according to a 2015 to 2016 budget plan presented at a town hall meeting last week. Dan Ritter, the city’s interim finance director, says the job cuts will save Des Moines just over $200,000. The Register reports the rest of the deficit will be shaved through increased fees for certain building permits and inspections and adjusted ambulance fees.

CLEAR LAKE, Iowa (AP) — The police chief in the northern Iowa town of Clear Lake has died from cancer. KIMT in Mason City reports that chief Rex McChesney died Friday morning, according to city administrator Scott Flory. McChesney was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer shortly after being appointed interim police chief in March. McChesney graduated from Clear Lake High in 1981.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Governor Terry Branstad is scheduled to undergo outpatient treatment for a minor leg issue on Monday. Branstad will return to his regular schedule on January 6th.

Tips for lessening holiday stress

News

December 26th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Many Iowans may find the holidays to be the most stressful — rather than the most wonderful — time of the year. Des Moines psychologist Paul Ascheman says packed schedules can be both mentally and emotionally taxing. He recommends focusing on aspects of the holidays that are important to you.  “And it’s also OK to say ‘no’ to things. If you don’t want to go to an event, it is alright to decline an invitation or to say, ‘I have too many commitments,'” Ascheman say. “And if you show up to an event, and you find that it’s dysfunctional or you’re not being respected, then I think it’s OK to leave.” Holiday parties that include a lot of alcohol can also present a challenge for someone in recovery.

Ascheman says it might be helpful for a recovering alcoholic to alert the host prior to the party.  “Talking with the host may be a way to potentially change the event. Sometimes people will choose not to have alcohol at an event. Other times, people in recovery may feel OK with it being present, as long as they’re not being pushed to drink,” Ascheman says. Holiday gatherings are not a good time to stage an intervention or confront someone with drug or alcohol issues, according to Ascheman.

He recommends family members approach the person in a private setting when they are sober.

(Radio Iowa)

Time running out to make charitable contributions for 2014 tax year

News

December 26th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Time is running out to make charitable contributions that can be claimed on your 2014 tax returns. I-R-S spokesman, Bill Brunson, says you have to do so by midnight on December 31st. “And these can be either in cash or non-cash contributions to a qualified charity that the I-R-S recognizes,” Brunson says. “And to find out if that charity that you are going to gift to is recognized as an exempt organization by the I-R-S, folks can go to www.irs.gov, and use the select-check tool, by keying in the name of the organization, and the I-R-S will then tell you if it is currently recognized as an exempt organization or not.” Brunson says you have to have paperwork proving your donation.

“If you gift cash, you need to get a record for any amount. If you gift non-cash items, if the value of those items is in excess of 250 dollars, then you should get a written receipt also,” Brunson says. He says there are cases where you can keep track of non-cash items and still claim them. Brunson says if you were to drop off items at a charity after they have closed, you need to write down the items and that record will be acceptable to the I-R-S is it includes, the date, time and the items you are giving. Non-cash items such as clothing and household items must be in good used condition or better to be deductible. Brunson says donations paid by credit card or check can be deducted on your 2014 taxes even if the organization does not process them until 2015.

“You are able to claim it on your 2014 return, but once again, you have to take that action before midnight December 31st,” according to Brunson. There are also ways to put off paying taxes until a later date. “People have the ability to defer tax on monies that they earn by putting them in a qualified pension fund or an individual retirement arrangement,”Brunson says. “You must make your contributions to your qualified pension fund for it to be reflected on your 2014 statement.” The one important things to remember is you need proof of what you have done to go along with your return.

“Record keeping doesn’t cost the taxpayer anything, and it will save them money when it becomes tax time. Good records will make sure that you pay only the correct amount of tax, no more, no less. So, save your receipts, save your documents,” Brunson says. He says you can find answers or help with tax questions on the I-R-S website.

(Radio Iowa)

Iowan starts organ donor group

News

December 26th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) – A brush with death inspired an Iowa man to start a group dedicated to organ donor awareness and assistance. Doug Lehman was given less than two weeks to live back in 2012 because of kidney failure. But he received a kidney transplant at the University of Nebraska Medical Center after being on the waiting list for three and a half months.

Lehman says that while he in the hospital, he said he had a vision to help people. Lehman soon founded the non-profit, Sioux City-based Doug’s Donors. It gives support to patients who need a transplant, helps them get on transplant lists, transports them to medical appointments in Sioux Falls and Omaha and provides information to those interested in becoming a living donor.

State had over $26 BILLION “in custody” on June 30

News

December 26th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

The state treasurer’s office handled more than 21-and-a-half BILLION dollars in receipts in the last state fiscal year. That 21-and-a-half BILLION dollars is a combination of taxes paid to the state, along with payments to Iowa from the federal government, to run programs like Medicaid. The state treasurer paid out 20-and-a-half BILLION of that to cover state government operations, including construction of new state buildings, plus new roads and bridges. State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald says the state made six-and-a-half million electronic payments last year. That includes paychecks to state employees as well as payments for goods and services.

“We had, as of June 30, had $26 billion under custody which is of course IPERS and all the state funds and such,” Fitzgerald says. “And if you asked about that today, it’s up probably $3 billion or $4 billion from that, because IPERS has done so well.” IPERS is the acronym for the Iowa Public Employees Retirement System. Fitzgerald also manages the College Savings Iowa program, which has over four-point-two billion ($4.2 billion) in assets.

As for the other side of the ledger, the state has nine-hundred-20 million ($920 million) in outstanding debts. Those debts are in the form of bonds that are being off in yearly increments. Iowa is one of only nine states with the top “Triple A” bond rating from all three rating agencies. “We’re a very low debt state. Our pension funds aren’t perfect, but they’re solid,” Fitzgerald says. “We have a surplus. Reserve funds are full, so we’re in solid shape — if the farm economy will hold up.” Fitzgerald says dropping corn prices cause concern that farm income will drop significantly in the coming year and depress state tax collections.

(Radio Iowa)

(Podcast) 8-a.m. KJAN News, 12/26/2014

News, Podcasts

December 26th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

With Ric Hanson.

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Meeting to address development of safe routes to school

News

December 26th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

A meeting is scheduled next month in Des Moines to help develop more programs in Iowa that encourage kids to walk or bike to school. Alana Croco, director of the Safe Routes to School Program, says her organization is making “good headway,” but there’s a lot more that can be done. “I think a lot of people are hesitant about building walking school bus programs because they feel that the infrastructure in their community is not up to par,” Croco said. There are ways to work around a lack of sidewalks or traffic signals, according to Croco. A “walking school bus” simply involves kids walking together to school with designated stops along the way.

“There are two adults walking with the kids and they just pick kids up along the way to school,” Croco said. “It’s a lot of fun and kids seem to love it.” The Iowa Safe Routes to School meeting will take place on the morning of January 24 at the Iowa Events Center. One of the presentations will involve a pair of injury prevention specialists from the University of Iowa who are preparing a study which will utilize GPS-enabled helmet cameras to capture the bicycling experience of children and adults.

“It’ll help us kind of see what kids see and how they react to certain situations, so I think it’s going to be a really cool program,” Croco said. Getting kids to be more active and healthy will improve their performance in the classroom, according to Croco.

(Radio Iowa)

Trend in farmers buying farmland hasn’t changed

Ag/Outdoor, News

December 26th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

The Iowa farmland values survey released last week by Iowa State University’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development showed the first drop in values since 1999. Retired I-S-U economics professor, Mike Duffy, says that drop broke the upward trend in prices, but another standard of Iowa farmland ownership didn’t change. “Basically we’ve saw a continuation of the trends we’ve seen, and that’s existing farmers are the primary purchasers,” Duffy says. Duffy says investing in Iowa farmland hasn’t pushed out gold or the stock market for those outside of farming hoping to make some money.

“We had seen in the early two-thousands investor interest rising relative to existing farmers, but since about 2004, 2005, we’ve seen the existing farmers being the primary ones in the market,” Duffy says. “So most of Iowa’s land is owned by someone actively farming it, or someone who has in the past.” Duffy says the sales data from farmland shows mostly transactions from “Iowa to Iowa.”

“You can have some outside investors that have Iowa holdings, but it’s not as much as you might see in some of the surrounding states,” Duffy explains. He says part of the reason land doesn’t replace other investments, is that it takes ongoing work to reap the rewards. “I think sometimes people want to use just short-run points of view on the land market. Land is a long-term investment, it’s an investment that people buy for a variety reasons, not just income,” Duffy says. “We’ve seen probably close a fifth of the land — 20 percent — is owned for sentimental reason.”

Duffy has tracked the farmland values for 28 years and says those who operated farms for their livelihood have had a lot to keep track of recently. “You know the last few years have probably been some of the most unusual where we saw the big run up in values, massive changes in corn prices, and it’s been an interesting time,” Duffy says.

Duffy started tracking land values as the state was coming out of the farm crisis and big drop in prices in the late 1980’s. He thinks this year’s drop in prices is a correction in values related to commodity prices falling, and doesn’t think values will continue to drop like they did back then. Duffy has retired from I-S-U and says this is likely his last year working on the farmland survey.

(Radio Iowa)

(Podcast) 7:06-a.m. KJAN News & funeral report, 12/26/2014

News, Podcasts

December 26th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

With KJAN News Director Ric Hanson.

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Traffic fatalities in Iowa increase in 2014

News

December 26th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

The number of people killed in traffic crashes in Iowa this year will likely be more than last year. The 317 traffic fatalities last year marked the lowest annual total since 1944. As of Tuesday of this week, the traffic fatality count for this year already stood at 317. Iowa State Patrol Sergeant Scott Bright says there were some violent collisions last month on the state’s roadways that quickly raised the number of traffic deaths for the year.state patrol car

“We had 40-some fatalities just in November,” Bright said. “I recall one where we had five fatalities just in one collision.” There was also a single weekend back in January when freezing rain made roads slick and 11 people lost their lives on Iowa roadways. While most Iowans wear a seat belt when they’re in a vehicle, more than half of the people who died last year in Iowa traffic crashes were not wearing a seat belt.

“What we’re seeing is a lot of people around small communities, if they’re just leaving their house and going three or four miles, they aren’t using their seat belts,” Bright said. “Most collisions usually occur 10 miles from your residence, so if people are going to leave their home for just a few miles, put that seat belt on. Seat belts do save lives.” According to U.S. Department of Transportation figures, around 94-percent of Iowans routinely buckle-up in a vehicle. The national seat belt usage rate is 87-percent.

(Radio Iowa)