Commissioners increase county's general fund

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Red Willow County commissioners Monday morning increased the county's general fund by $405,000 to offset, among several other expenses, unusually high health insurance claims.

This budget amendment will not increase the county's property tax levy requirement.

"We budgeted for the worst-case scenario," said Commission Chairman Earl McNutt. "But because the county is self-insured, we pay claims up front and then wait for reimbursement." Fellow Commissioner Steve Downer said, "We didn't count on having so many claims."

The county budgeted $555,000 for insurance, and through June 6, health insurance claims totaled $834,314.

Other unanticipated expenses were in the county commissioners' budget (to pay appraisal fees), in liability insurance and in the transition between appointed officials in the county's Veterans Service Office.

Shirley Volz, the county's budget clerk, told commissioners Monday the $405,000 would be appropriated from self-insurance reimbursement, underestimated motor vehicle tax, Homestead fee and interest earned.

McNutt said the county most likely will not need the full $405,000 to pay salaries, insurance claims and accounts receivable at the end of June.

Volz said if the full amount is not used, it will stay in the general fund.

"There's nothing wrong with not spending all of it," McNutt said. "If we don't need it all, it just leaves us with more to start with later."

No one spoke during a public hearing scheduled to allow tax payers the opportunity to ask questions and make comments.

Commissioners and County Assessor Sandra Kotschwar scheduled tax valuation protest hearings for:

* Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, July 5, 6, 7 and 8, from 8 a.m. until noon and from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.

* Monday, July 11, from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.

* Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, July 12, 13, 14 and 15, from 8 a.m. until noon and 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.

* Monday, July 18, from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.

County Clerk Pauletta Gerver told commissioners that 22 tax protest forms have been returned as of Friday, June 17. Property owners have until June 30 to file protests.

County Clerk Pauletta Gerver will notify tax payers filing protests 10 days prior to their hearing dates with commissioners.

Commissioners must finalize valuations and submit them to the state by July 25.

McNutt said the fewest protests commissioners have heard in his two terms on the board has been around 90.

County Assessor Sandra Kotschwar presented to commissioners Red Willow County's "plan of assessment," to be submitted to the Nebraska Department of Property Assessment and Taxation by Oct. 31.

According to Kotschwar's plan, Red Willow County has real propery as described in the chart below.

In 2006, Kotschwar plans to make on-site inspections of all rural and suburban residential properties and rural buildings. Her office will also study the market on mobile homes and start a reappraisal.

A market study will be done to determine if commercial land values and occupancy codes are 92-100 percent of market value

Agricultural land will be reviewed on a yearly basis.

In 2007, the assessor's office will complete on-site inspections of Danbury and Lebanon. All statistics will be reviewed for residential and commercial properties. The assessor will identify problem areas and determine if percentage adjustments will be needed by neighborhoods.

In 2008, the assessor's office will contact all ag land owners to request current maps to identify land use.

In other action, commissioners:

* Discussed an increase, from $71,250 to $75,000, in the 2005-2006 proposed budget for the District Nine Probation office in McCook.

* Signed employees health insurance and COBRA documents and discussed a shortage of health insurance plan booklets.

* Discussed updates in a jail needs assessment report from Gary Bowker of Allied Correctional Services. The county's jail task force meets today at 7 p.m., in the commissioners' room on the third floor of the courthouse.

* Approved a health insurance claim.

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