Dickinson County Commissioners approved the county’s 2020 budget Thursday that authorizes spending up to $23,710.671 next year to fund services that protect the health, safety and welfare of citizens.
The budget is funded by a 55.912 mill levy, up 1.893 mills over the 54.019 mills levied in 2019. Based on the mill levy, the owner of a $100,000 home will pay an estimated $642.99 in county property taxes.
A mill is equal to $1 in tax for every $1,000 of assessed valuation.
Despite an overflow crowd gathered in the commission room, no one spoke during the public hearing dedicated to the budget except for County Finance Director Janelle Dockendorf who gave an overview.
The crowd was in attendance to participate in the another public hearing scheduled that morning for the Chisholm Hill Subdivision in Grant Township. A separate story on that hearing will appear in a future issue of the Reflector-Chronicle.
Dockendorf gave a presentation that showed how the “operations of county government work.”
State tax lid
“It continues to be a challenge with increasing fuel, oil and rock prices. Also increasing costs in utilities, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Additionally, we’re seeing reductions in state funding and a number of state decisions that have shifted the burden from funding county government to home and business owners — that’s the tax lid we have to work under,” Dockendorf said.
The mill levy increase was lower than it might have been if not for a 3 percent increase in the county’s assessed valuation, from $215 million in 2019 to $222 million in 2020 and an increase in ad valorum taxes, from 11.6 million in 2019 to 12.4 million in 2020.
The higher budget will cover new staff, including a receptionist in the sheriff’s department and two in the jail — based on a safety and security assessment of the current jail, adding an extra county agent to handle senior citizens’ issues and absorbing the crime victim’s advocate position in the county attorney’s office.
Other reasons include increases in the road and bridge department, due to bringing the budget back up after it was reduced several years ago to pay a loan that funded 40 miles of overlay.
“We are trying to bring that funding back to 2017 levels,” Dockendorf said.
The budget also includes a change in the county’s pay plan that increases the base pay rate, moving it up from $11.30 to $12.30 per hour to help the county attract and retain good employees.
“From time to time, we have to make tough decisions and the county commission has to raise taxes,” Dockendorf said. “It’s not an easy decision and we don’t like to do that, but always our goal as public employees is to advance the public interest and do what’s best for our citizens.”
Commissioner Ron Roller said that in his eight months serving as county commissioner he finds it “remarkable” county staff is able to accomplish what they do with the dollars they have available.
Fish passage bridges
The commission also approved purchasing bridge materials to be used on two fish passage bridges located at 1880 Union Road and 695 Paint Road.
The commission accepted the low bid of $29,640.88 from Welborn Sales of Salina for sheeting material (push sheeting, deck sheeting and guard rails); and the low bid of $33,220.37 for I-beams, angle iron and flat iron from Oden Enterprises of Wahoo, Neb.
Fish passage bridges, located in the southeastern portion of the county, are in the habitat of the Topeka Shiner, a tiny minnow.
The Shiner is on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s critical list of endangered species so when bridges in the habitat need to be replaced, the county has to follow specific regulations.
Due to the costs involved in following the specific regulations, the federal government offers fish passage grants to help fund the projects. In recent years, Dickinson County has been awarded a number of grants.
The grants cover the cost of materials, while the county provides the labor.
Without the fish passage grant funds, replacing the two bridges would not be a high priority, Homman said.
“But they are top priority apparently to the Topeka Shiner minnow,” Homman said.
Contact Kathy Hageman at email@example.com