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County will turn to taxpayers

by Dennis Sharkey
The deadline for filing a yearly budget with the state is today, but commissioners are not ready yet.

On Monday commissioners approved a budget for publication that includes a 3.5 mill increase for property owners. The mill levy proposed is at 67.88.

The budget should have been published two weeks ago and the county is the last entity in Jefferson County to publish a budget.

Chairman Richard Malm said he isn’t pleased with the increase. He said the first draft that commissioners worked on had a 15 mill increase.

“I’m disappointed we have to have a mill increase,” Malm said right before he voted. “The circumstances is that our economy hasn’t improved in the last 12 months.”

The total expenditures for the county were cut across the board by five percent in each department for a total of about $675,000. The Road and Bridge Department and Auxiliary Services also made some additional cuts.

The value of a mill for 2012 is $145,879. That is down $622 from last year. First District Commissioner Lynn Luck said nobody wants to raise taxes nor do commissioners want to cut services.

“Nobody likes to cut everybody five percent but when the economy is flat like it is,” Luck said while shrugging her shoulders.

In order to cut down on the budget the county also scrapped the self-insurance plan and switched back to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas. Luck said that plan would be $113,000 cheaper than the cheapest plan offered by Bukaty Company.

The two employees representing the employees’ committee said they endorsed the switch.

Employees will be asked to contribute more to the plan. Each premium will increase by $25 a month across the board.

Luck explained why the commissioners made the switch last year in an attempt to save money. She said that commissioners looked at the county’s numbers for the past five years. They saw a pattern of two years where the county spends more on insurance claims than what is charged for premiums to every year that is flat or results in a surplus. Bukaty company had said that there would be one bad year within a five-year period and that last year was the one bad year.

The new plan approved will be a fully insured plan that will last for 15 months as opposed to 12 months.

Three percent is built into the budget for delinquent taxes. Malm said the county has plans for a tax sale in October. It takes three years for the county to process a property.

• Commissioners met in closed session for more than an hour with attorney Mike Hayes but no action was taken after the meeting and no comments were made.

On Tuesday a deadline passed for a settlement between commissioners and business owner Zach Snyder.

Snyder filed a federal lawsuit against the commissioners in March and the case has been continued three times because a settlement was being reached.

If commissioners did not reach a settlement the case may move forward with the county filing a response to the claims filed by Snyder’s attorneys. Snyder’s attorneys have also indicated that they will likely file an amended petition.

• Road and Bridge Director Francis Hubbard reported the results of a traffic count on Ferguson Road about 2/10 of a mile south of K-16 Highway. The northbound daily average was about 163 while the southbound average was 178. There was an average speed of 46.3 mph.

• Hubbard requested to seek prices on a crack sealer for county roads. The department used to contract out crack sealing but budget cuts have phased it out. He said some cracks are beginning to become a problem.

“If we don’t seal them at some point they’re going to deteriorate and become giant potholes,” Hubbard said.

He said the department used to spend between $35,000 and $40,000 a year. He couldn’t say whether or not it would be more economical for his department to do the sealing in house.

Hubbard estimated a used machine would cost around $10,000. He said if the cracks get big enough on roads that are being surfaced with chip and seal, the surface will not fix the problem.

• Ambulance Director James Tweed met with the board and said all of the plans are ready to move forward on a new ambulance sub-station in Meriden.

Tweed also discussed the possibility of a lease-purchase on the building which would allow the department to buy a new ambulance next year. Malm requested cost estimates for maintaining the new building along with projected utility costs.

• Commissioners overturned a denial of a lot split at 2675 Clark Road. Planning and Zoning had denied it because the split would have left a lot without enough frontage. However, an arrangement has been made for a neighbor to purchase the lot which would add enough frontage.

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Posted by on Aug 29 2011. Filed under County, County Commission, Government. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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