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Wednesday, Sep. 3, 2014

Budget plan enacts cell phone fees

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

McCOOK, Nebraska -- The proposed 2012-13 McCook city budget calls for creation of a mobile phone occupation tax, which will put McCook right on track with the rest of the state.

According to the smartmoney.com website, Nebraska already has the highest taxes and fees on wireless service in the nation.

The creation of a 6 percent mobile phone occupation tax will generate an estimated $61,000 annually for the city, when combined with a proposed increase from 3 percent to 6 percent on the land-line phone occupation tax.

The increases are being proposed to finance $158,000 in capital outlay projects, despite a larger amount of uncommitted sales tax funds.

According to the proposed budget the city has $401,797 budgeted as uncommitted sales tax funds, between the one- and one-half cent sales taxes, with $127,252 of that carried over from the prior year.

Mayor Dennis Berry said Monday evening that without the increased phone taxes, the capital outlay projects may require increased property taxes. That would appear to justify the use of uncommitted sales tax funds for the projects, given an announcement from City Attorney Nate Schneider in June explaining that the city was not required to reduce the property tax levy. [See related story at http://www.mccookgazette.com/story/18566...

City Manager Jeff Hancock told the Gazette this morning that use of sales tax is complicated by requirements in the one-cent and half-cent sales taxes.

Although Hancock estimated the phone taxes would generate $61,000 annually, he said during the meeting that the state could only provide the number of cell phones and not the dollar amount, which made predicting how much the tax would actually bring in difficult.

During Monday's budget meeting, Hancock and City Clerk Lea Ann Doak gave examples of several Nebraska cities already charging a mobile phone occupation tax, all of them less than the 6 percent proposed for McCook.

Gothenburg was said to be at 5 percent and receiving $155,000 annually from the tax and Sydney said to be at 3 percent and collecting approximately $85,000 annually. Kearney was expected to increase its phone tax to 6.25 percent, according to the information.

Councilors asked for a more detailed recap of first-class cities in Nebraska to be compiled for their review and for a ordinance to be prepared for consideration and three-readings. Councilor Janet Hepp questioned if anyone actually looked at the charges on their cell phone bill and Councilor Mike Gonzales said he thought there would be room to use sales tax funds to at least reduce the amount of the mobile phone occupation tax needed.

During the meeting Hancock presented the need to purchase three new state-of-the-art defibrillator/cardiac monitors as the driving force behind increases in certain ambulance fees. He explained that the ambulance rate increase is estimated to provide $17,000 annually, which would finance the $89,000 equipment purchase.

Fire Chief Marc Harpham said the equipment would provide much more than the current equipment being used, including the ability to measure the amount of oxygen in a patient's blood and providing the ability to perform a 12-lead EKG for heart attack victims in the field.

Hancock commended department heads for "cutting the fat" and being able to maintain operating expenses at or very close to where they were the previous year.

Hancock said the General Fund was up approximately $380,000 from the previous budget and included some capital items that addressed some needed issues.

Capital items in the proposed general fund budget, which are slated to be funded by the increased land-line tax and creation of the mobile phone occupation tax and combine for $158,000 in projects, include a $12,000 used mower and $15,000 utility vehicle for the airport. The parks department will receive $25,000 for mower replacement and another $12,000 is budgeted for mower replacement at the cemetery, as well as an additional $15,000 for a utility vehicle at the airport. The street department also has $25,000 budgeted for mower replacement.

The highest expense item listed to be funded with the new phone taxes is the police department purchase of two new squad cars and graphics, budgeted at $54,000.

Capital outlay projects that will be funded with standard General Fund revenues include $7,800 for the library to replace the main floor carpet, $6,500 for pagers for the fire department and another $10,000 for miscellaneous fire equipment. Police department items include $1,700 for an in-car video system, $2,250 for an emergency vehicle lighting system and $660 for a vehicle radar system.

The library has $200,000 budgeted for the installation of an elevator, although that item is listed as a budgeted capital outlay item in the General Fund for accounting purposes, the project is actually being funded via a transfer of funds received from the Library Foundation.

A $7,000 pool assessment is similarly budgeted that will be funded with pool reserve funds.

One capital outlay item included in the general fund will be funded with sales tax revenues, $11,000 to replace nets for bleachers and a new fence for the dugouts at the Jaycee ballpark complex.

Utility Director Jesse Dutcher said that the water department had experienced two consecutive months of selling more water than they had ever sold before. The resulting revenue increase would be offset somewhat, by increased expenses the volume caused, but should reduce the amount of a rate increase asked for next year, according to Dutcher. Dutcher estimated the revenue to end the year more than $200,000 higher than what was budgeted.

No discussion occurred pertaining to the largest expense increase in the 2012-13 budget, when compared to prior year, a proposed 2.5 percent across the board cost of living adjustment for all city employees. The wage increase, when combined with automatic merit and longevity increases, reflects a $220,447 annual increase in city salaries.

During the meeting Brahmers Steakhouse and Saloon was also approved for a special liquor license for a August 11, 2012, wedding reception at the Red Willow County Fairgrounds.


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Our last money spending City Manager tried this if you recall and got shot down. Why does our Mayor, City Council and City Manager think that every time they need something they raise or envent a new tax to get. If they are in need of new mowers have that department cut that much from their budget. The city is already getting sales tax money more than they expected. Come on people live within your means, we are in the middle of a drought, food, gas and tangables will be raising. If our big city does not think this is an agricultural community they may want to think again.

-- Posted by ph2856 on Tue, Jul 31, 2012, at 2:27 PM

Glad I moved out of McCook to Arizona. Couldn't afford to life in McCook now.

-- Posted by jercor on Tue, Jul 31, 2012, at 5:32 PM

Was the 6% just a proposal that can be deleted down to a more delicate amount or does the council have this number lodged in their heads. Lets hope they have the nerve to look at it closer before acting. Nebraska is already ranked #5 in the nation for communication taxes, currently 21% and it is to dry to go back to smoke signals. Keep is simple people of the council. 2% will get you more than you need.

-- Posted by bands on Wed, Aug 1, 2012, at 11:23 AM

If this strikes anyone as being disrespectful then I pre-apologize. As you know we already have property taxes, sales taxes, income taxes, personal property taxes, Irrigated use taxes, Auto taxes, capital gains taxes, occupation taxes, fuel taxes, FCC taxes on our land lines, and now you want a 6% cell phone tax? What is this on? The total bill as paid by the consumer? Or the base plan? Or what? Is it just for the people who live in the city of McCook or anyone with a McCook address? If it is anyone with a McCook address then there is another problem. There are people who live in Hitchcock and Frontier counties who have McCook addresses but don't even live in red willow county! I don't think your taxing authority extends past your city limits. For me, 6% of my total bill would cost 234.00 per year. We simply cannot afford anymore government spending. Period. We are currently going through a period of unprecedented expansion and building. (Aka. New city fire/police station {without jail facilities}, a new county jail {built on our historical main street} repaving older streets, the Keystone Business Center {who everyone thought was going to be a Hotel until it was completed}, a very nice mini park {at the corner of Norris and B} We want businesses to come to our town but we keep raising the taxes to pay for stuff that we cannot afford. If you were a business looking to expand, would you look at a town with high taxes or low? If a business that sold high ticket items were going to put in a new location, would they do it in town or outside the city limits? All the stuff that you want is neat and cool but is it necessary? We live in western Nebraska. We are reliant upon agriculture for our survival. Even in normal years the agricultural sector of our economy does not have the profit margins that our eastern cousins do. We have to live more frugally that people east of here do. That is not being pessimistic it is just a fact. To get businesses not associated with the Ag sector to move in, we have to make McCook a more attractive place for business than anywhere else in our area. To do that your brochure cannot lead off with "Welcome to McCook, We have higher taxes than anywhere else in the state!!!" Seriously!

-- Posted by quick13 on Wed, Aug 1, 2012, at 5:55 PM

Ph2856, do you live in a tent out in the desert? I don't know where you live, but I doubt that you are truly living in a place that is cheaper than McCook. I'm not saying that there are not cheaper places to live but I am saying that Arizona isn't one of them.

That being said, I'm not sure that I agree with a mobile phone tax. Tax after tax begins to wear on people, this appears to be an easy way to solve some problems but in the end perhaps not the most diplomatic solution. One must pick and choose one's battles, I see things going down the wrong path regarding this.

My opinion and $1.25, including tax, will get you a cup of coffee, albiet a small one.

Just my observations, but a wise man takes the path of least resistance when pressing to move ahead in adverse conditions.

-- Posted by Nick Mercy on Thu, Aug 2, 2012, at 12:22 AM

It's always easier to spend someone else's money than to save your own.

I don't live IN McCook, but have a McCook mailing address as well as rental properties...I get to pay the taxes; but I don't even get a voice when voting time comes up. Now, it looks like I may get to pay another tax that is being justified by the teenage mentality "everybody ELSE is doing it...".

Where do I get the return in investment for my money spent? Where do I sign up for the exemption or the rebate because I'm a county resident, and not a city resident?

-- Posted by Mickel on Thu, Aug 2, 2012, at 12:06 PM

Mr Nick Mercy maybe you need to read a little better before pointing your finger, i said nothing about Arizona.

-- Posted by ph2856 on Thu, Aug 2, 2012, at 4:09 PM

Ph2856, my apologies, I do need to read more carefully or, in this case, retain what I read. Please allow me to forward my comment to jercor.

@ jercor, do you live in a tent out in the desert? I don't know where you live, but I doubt that you are truly living in a place that is cheaper than McCook. I'm not saying that there are not cheaper places to live but I am saying that Arizona isn't one of them.

That being said, I'm not sure that I agree with a mobile phone tax. Tax after tax begins to wear on people, this appears to be an easy way to solve some problems but in the end perhaps not the most diplomatic solution. One must pick and choose one's battles, I see things going down the wrong path regarding this.

My opinion and $1.25, including tax, will get you a cup of coffee, albiet a small one.

Just my observations, but a wise man takes the path of least resistance when pressing to move ahead in adverse conditions.

-- Posted by Nick Mercy on Thu, Aug 2, 2012, at 6:31 PM

Remember this issue was brought up so citizens could voice opinions first and not just rammed through. City citizens lost about 70k in state aid to help the state balance that budget. Landline taxes are about half of what they were before because of people going to cells. To make it fair to all phone users maybe lowering the land line taxes to1.5 percent and adding cells at the same 1.5 rate is workable so the tax rate would total the same current rate of 3. What is not known is if that would actually raise or lower the current revenue generated by the current land line tax.

-- Posted by dennis on Fri, Aug 3, 2012, at 8:09 AM

Mr (dennis) Mayor did you ever think maybe it's time to cut expences!13% pay raise with benifits over two years, did the school board give you that much? Most of us got 4% cost of living for two years and longevity benifit (really!! Maybe they ought to just feel happy they have a job in times like these.Come on Mayor get with the program make the different offices cut enough out of their budgets to afford the things they need if that is cutting a position or service then so be it. They and you need to decide which is important and not expect the tax payer to foot the the bill. Again 13% really!!!!!!!!!!

-- Posted by ph2856 on Fri, Aug 3, 2012, at 8:29 AM

Read the budget nobody is getting 13 percent. And seven percent is not right either. Budgets have not been keeping up with inflation and because there has been no property tax levy increases since 2001 capital improvements have suffered. Do you have suggestions as to what services should be cut? Would you complain if the library was closed one extra day per week? The cemetary was not mowed because the mower was beyond repair? The police could not respond to your 911 call? The para medics did not have the best available defibulator to restart your spouses heart? The council annually is ask to fund more....dog parks, skate parks, pool slides,trees, humane society, wild life control, property clean-up...can you remember a citizen ever at a meeting saying cut this specific service? Check the line items for positions within the city and they are about what non government people in McCook make for like jobs. Is $5 an hour to much for a pool basket helper? $15 for a mechanic? $10.35 for a cook? It looks like the city employees are not overpaid. Also remember that the last few audits have shown that citizens of McCook pay less than average already compared to what citizens of like sized Ne. cities pay for the same city services. Not wanting a fight just what you want and are willing to pay for.

-- Posted by dennis on Fri, Aug 3, 2012, at 10:59 AM

Maybe your house is different than mine or maybe you spend other peoples money differently than yours. If the electricity bill is more than i can afford i turn the air conditioner to a higher temp, if my budget can't afford a New York steak i buy hamburger, if my car has a lot of miles and breaks down i fix it not trade it. Does the city have a wellness program like other businesses do, requiring them to get annual checkups and blood tests to prevent sickness which in turn lowers insurance rates.Tell me Dennis if you don't call employee paid health insurance and longevity raises a benifit along with cost of living which added together for a total employee benifit of 6.8% I stand corrected. I would check with other employers there are very few paying longevity benifits and still paying for the lion's share of their health care. The only one's that come to mind are school's and goverment yet again we know who pay's for that us tax payers.

-- Posted by ph2856 on Fri, Aug 3, 2012, at 4:22 PM

@ ph2856, if, in these hard times, anyone needs a job, let me know..... I have 8 full time positions open and haven't been able to fill them for 3 months now. If any of the fortunate City workers needs a job, I would gladly take them, as would at least ten other business owners in McCook from the conversations I've had.

McCook isn't in the same boat as the rest of the nation, and Nebraska in general is in far better shape nationally as well. My company offers many benefits, and if I continue to give my employees these benefits, its not furthering benefits, its only maintaining them.

Its not like all employees are getting raises, only if they deserve them. A cost of living perhaps, but is it considered a raise is the cost of living increase stays constant with the cost of living? Or does it simply allow the employee buy the same amount of groceries that they did last year?

-- Posted by Nick Mercy on Sat, Aug 4, 2012, at 10:59 PM

Nick, are you paying wages comparable to the city? We would all like to know where this employment is located? Because the job service has nothing that has the need for 8 employees!

-- Posted by smz on Tue, Aug 7, 2012, at 12:20 PM

Smalz, good point.... I haven't called them for about a year, I'll get on that. You may have solved my dilemma. I quit using them as there was little response to my needs for quite some time but that seems like a great opportunity, I'll give that a shot again.

2ndly, yes, we have starting wages comparable to some of the equally qualified "general laborer" positions at the City.

Not ALL job services can offer placement of employees to us however, as the trades require special insurance by the Placement Organizations.

I'll see what I can get done.

Thanks again.

-- Posted by Nick Mercy on Tue, Aug 7, 2012, at 2:38 PM

nick what kind of business do you run? you don't even think about going to the job service for employee placement? I wouldn't go to nick for a job, it seems like he probably doesn't have much job security there either.

-- Posted by BTWinecleff on Tue, Aug 7, 2012, at 11:05 PM

I'm guessing selling vacuum cleaners or smoke alarms to your friends for commission only.

-- Posted by bbens on Fri, Aug 10, 2012, at 1:20 AM

No one has responded to the main question on this subject. Does this tax apply only to people who live in the city of mccook or anyone who has a mccook mailing address?

-- Posted by quick13 on Fri, Aug 10, 2012, at 2:06 PM

Only city. Best guess is that it will not be added and with the extra input ask for by the mayor maybe we will even see a reduction in land line taxes.

-- Posted by dennis on Sun, Aug 12, 2012, at 7:33 PM

bbens, A later update and slow to respond to your slam by the way, but here is my response to your "smoke alarm" comment:

I recently brought in 7 new employees to McCook. They are ALL hourly employees, no commission involved. I am paying overtime, they get weekends and evenings off, and every last one of them have told me how much they appriciated the fact that I hired them.

In a related note: I would like to know where all those people who are rushing out of town, USED to live. I have been trying to rent a house for several of these gentlemen and frankly, I can't seem to find a single house to rent. Believe me, It's not because I'm looking for a $250.00 per month rent, I have been offering $900.00 and even up to $1,000.00 per month rent until they are able to get their own place. Many have said that they would like to rent a house to me, but they just don't have one available.

Surely, this "High Tax" City, must be loaded with empty houses that could be rented for $1,000.00 a month..... and yet, I can't find but a single dwelling to rent.

To those that claim that people are moving out of McCook and that this town will dwendle away, I say "Hogwash" Put your money where your mouths are and show me the proof. Give me an address of some of these people rushing off. Surely those that are high tailing it out of McCook aren't ALL home owners are they? With people scattering like rats from a fire, one might think that houses would be cheep and rentals would be a dime a dozen............. I don't see it.

If anyone wants to make $900.00 to $1,000.00 rent a month, let me know..... we need to talk!

-- Posted by Nick Mercy on Mon, Sep 10, 2012, at 10:32 PM

The city actually REDUCED the land line tax and reduced the recommendation of increases in water and sewer rates. The school also REDUCED property tax levies. The county did increase thier levy by about six cents however.

-- Posted by dennis on Thu, Sep 13, 2012, at 11:40 AM


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