CUSTER COUNTY—Budget season is upon us and for the first time in nearly five years the Custer County Board of Supervisors has approved an increased tax request. Due to this past year’s flooding and major damage to asphalt roads and therefore a depletion of road funds, the board felt it was time to increase the total operating budget by three percent.
During Tuesday morning’s meeting is was stated the total operating budget for fiscal year 2019-2020 comes to $30,289,946 with the total tax request coming in at $6,902,088.65. Last year’s levy was 17 cents and this year it has increased to approximately 19.0334 cents per $100 of assessed value.
“The budget was published and the total budget is—operating budget—is $30,289,946 and that’s a three percent increase over last year. The $6.9 [million] as I mentioned on property taxes and it was $6.2 [million] last year. And then the valuation for the county did decline three percent,” Dana F. Cole representative Bob Beran told the board.
Chairman Barry Fox said the tax request is approximately $725,000 higher than last year and $500,000 of those dollars will be going to the road fund.
“This is the first time that we’ll have a substantial increase in several years and obviously the big driver for that is what’s happened with roads and the summer and wet weather that we’ve had,” Fox told KCNI/KBBN.
Fox told KCNI/KBBN the road fund will be increasing by $4 million to not only replenish funds used this year but to also add more available dollars to continue road repairs. To avoid further property tax increases, three and a half million will be transferred from the inheritance fund with the other half million coming from property taxes. (Following the transfer to the road fund, Fox said the inheritance fund will still maintain approximately $1 million.)
On behalf of the Board of Supervisors Fox added they have been diligent to avoid increasing taxes but doing so this year has been a last resort due to the statewide disaster. However the positive, he added, is having available funds to transfer from the inheritance fund to the roads fund. Federal disaster funding could potentially bring the levy and tax request back down in years to come.
“Our starting balance for our road funds had dropped $2 million from last year to this year just based on the expenditures we had to do to try and get things just passable, not even repaired. It’s a difficult situation and it’s something we’re going to be dealing with for several years,” Fox said.
Other items discussed during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting included Don Cain with an Irrigated Grass motion request regarding a situation from 2012. No decisions were made.
Emergency Manager Mark Rempe presented a new damage assessment tool to the board that he hopes the entire county will be able to access. Rempe said the user-friendly tool will be beneficial in tracking incidents related to damages. He said it will cost the county $1,500 per year.
The board voted to not offer Road #631 back to the East Custer Township as nearby landowners Ken Farringer—in favor of closing the road–and John Allen—opposed to closing the road– continue to work through the situation.
The board also discussed adding road graders to the county’s NIRMA coverage as not all county property is currently covered (but liability coverage of county road vehicles is covered.)