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Sunday, May 1, 2016

County board looks for cuts

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

McCOOK, Nebraska -- Red Willow County Commissioners hope taxes paid between now and Sept. 1, and the cooperation of county officials figuring pay raises will help them write a budget that doesn't break the bank.

So far, tentatively, commissioners would need $3,329,414 in taxes to fund department budgets proposed by county officials for 2010-11. That figure does not yet include the county fair and health department budgets, two of the "big five" funds that have their own tax levies. The five are general (which includes county offices such as the assessor, treasurer and clerk), road and bridge, self-insurance, health department and fair.

Last year, the county asked for a total of $2,422,049 in taxes for the big five funds, and the county's tax levy was 36 cents per $100 assessed valuation.

Using the $3.3 million figure, county budget clerk Shirley Volz estimated a county levy of $0.508289 for 2010-11. The final valuation for 2010-11, which will be available Aug. 20, will help determine the exact levy.

Commission Chairman Earl McNutt said Monday morning, "I had a bad feeling the levy could go up a couple cents. But we can't go up that much in one year."

Right now, $4 million in taxes (for all taxing entities, not just the county) will become delinquent Sept. 1. "We've never had $4 million out before," Volz said.

The proposed budget is based on 100 percent tax collection, Volz said. "And tax collections aren't as good as they've been in the past. With better tax collections, we would have better starting balances."

Volz told commissioners that the county doesn't have the cash reserves it once maintained. "We've had more than $100,000 per fund in cash reserves, and we've been cutting that back each year," she said. That may be the downside of getting too conservative in budgets from year-to-year, McNutt said, and from trying to hold the line too tightly on tax-asking and levy increases.

"These are tough economic times," McNutt said.

Through a resolution, commissioners authorized pay raises of $50 per month for employees who work 40 hours a week, and $43.75 per month for employees who work 35 hours a week.

Salaries of elected officials are set before election time every four years, and the filing fee that a candidate must pay is based upon that salary. County officials' raises for 2010-11 account for about $7,000 in the proposed budget. Employees' raises amount to approximately $130,000.

Looking through proposed budgets, McNutt said several officials did not follow the pay raise guideline. "We'll have to reinforce our motion on the pay increases," McNutt said. Budgets that do not follow the guidelines will not be approved, he said. "I expect everyone to follow it," There will be no exceptions, commissioners agreed.

McNutt -- perturbed that some officials chose to give bigger raises than authorized -- said an alternative may be to amend the motion to give no pay increases at all.

Hoyt said other options may be to develop a system of unpaid furloughs and/or reduce the number of county employees.

Commissioners are also investigating making changes in the county's health insurance benefit, for which county employees pay nothing. The proposed budget for the county's self-insurance fund anticipates an increase, from $942,092.91 (actual expense in 2009-10) to $1,075,610 (which includes the repayment of a $53,610 loan from inheritance in 2009-10).

The budget proposal indicates that the county paid $225,378.55 in health insurance premiums for 2009-10, and estimates that expense at $256,000 for 2010-11. Claims totaled $716,714.36 in 2009-10; claims are estimated at $766,000 for 2010-11.

In other action:

* Weed superintendent Bill Elliott told commissioners it's too late to spray musk thistle, but Canada thistle can and should be sprayed now.

Cris Burks of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture has identified infestations of noxious thistles throughout the county, and delivered a second set of reports to Elliott and commissioners. Burks wrote seven infestation reports in July, and an additional 18 reports Monday. These aren't all "the usual suspects" who need reminders to spray and control their noxious weeds every year, Elliott said. There are also new growths, he said.

Elliott said many of the infestations appear to be on CRP -- Conservation Reserve Program -- land, and he suspects that maybe even CRP seed may be infested.

Several of Burks' reports indicate that a landowner has sprayed and is getting some control of weeds. Most, however, read, "No obvious sign of control."

Commissioners authorized Elliott to contact landowners and determine a course of action with each. Elliott is to report back to commissioners at their Aug. 23 meeting.

If landowners do not spray, the county will spray and add the cost of spraying to the landowner's tax bill.

* With the help of the county's responsible charge person (RC person) for federal aid transportation projects, commissioners narrowed a list of 12 possible construction engineering firms to work on the McCook West project to four: 1. Olsson's; 2. Kirkham Michael; 3. W Design; and 4. JEO.

The final selection will be made by the Nebraska Department of Transportation

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Amazing, tough times for the county, but the city likes to spend,spend spend.

The city had better hope and pray the tough times do not hit the city!

-- Posted by goarmy67 on Wed, Aug 11, 2010, at 10:16 PM

Amazing....well, lets do the math. A pay raise for those working a 40 hour week of $50 per month. That equals $600 per year, across the board. Now, a city employee making an average of $35,000 a year gets $700 per month. The Gazette was real quick to print the city leader's wages in the paper but I don't know what the county officials earn per year, however, I'm very supportive of what they're paid, they deserve every penny of it. Now, lets add the insurance cost. If I remember correctly, city employees pay around $40 or $50 per month for their insurance. County employees...well they pay nothing. That means its free to them and their families, which I feel is a good benefit to have and I'm not against that. What I am opposed to is folks like Wondering70 who put posts on here about how the city wants to spend, spend, spend when if you really look at the numbers, the county is providing their employees with a better deal then what the city is doing. Now, throw in the tax base and how much of that goes to the county versus how much goes to the city? It's my belief that Wondering70 just has a case of $#&@ for the city for some reason. Facts are facts folks!

-- Posted by McCook Supporter on Thu, Aug 12, 2010, at 3:43 PM

I have to agree with McCook Supporter. I find it interesting how, no matter the topic, there are those that can turn it into a "the City of McCook spends too much" forum.

ARTICLE: Lemonade stand on Fair Acres Drive / POSTING: "Hope they manage their profits better than the city!

ARTICLE: China mandates the reduction of fat from their consumable goods / POSTING: The city should mandate the reduction of spending before they have to raise taxes!

ARTICLE: Hail storm south of Red Willow Lake / POSTING: I sure as hail hope the city slows spending!

Of course these aren't real articles and related postings but they just as well be. I believe that postings are to be kept on topic and every time I read an article which has deviating postings I have to sit back and chuckle. NOT EVERYTHING IS RELATIVE TO THE CITY OF McCOOK..... PEOPLE! And I'm only addressing those which are constantly razzing the City of McCook and invariably without all the facts I might add. You People are ridiculous! If you have a beef with the City or any other organization for that matter........ PLEASE do yourself a favor and "BE proactive" BE the City Council Member, BE the School Board Member, BE a volunteer of the Main Street Rehabilitation Committee!

I deal with the public daily in a private sector company and there is one thing I've come to know for certain........ 99% of the public can identify a problem: "My finger hurts." 80% of the public can find a solution: "Oh, my fingers shut in the car door.... I should open it!" But only about 10% actually do something about it.

For those of you that take pleasure with demeaning the local government, let me ask..... Do you KNOW that your finger hurts? Do you know WHY your finger hurts? Or is your primary goal to just give someone the finger? Really, if you don't like what you're seeing....GET INVOLVED!

DISCLAIMER: As most of the negative posters seem to believe whatever they read without doing much research for verification of the facts, the above ARTICLES and POSTINGS in this comment were NOT real but just EXAMPLES.... China may or may not be mandating the reduction of fat from their consumable goods.

Get involved if you can make the difference, that's what it takes.... no-one really takes credence in these postings anyway... you know that right?

-- Posted by PensiveObserver on Sat, Aug 14, 2010, at 10:48 PM

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