Gage County keeps chipping away at federal civil rights judgment

BEATRICE – It’s still a long road, as Gage County faces another budget year tied to paying off a huge civil rights judgment, from a 1985 Beatrice murder where six people were judged by a federal jury to be wrongfully convicted.

Gage County Board Chairman Erich Tiemann says the county will make approximately another $3 million dollar property tax revenue payment this coming budget year toward the judgment, which initially totaled over $30 million, counting legal fees.

"With the half-cent sales tax and approximately about three million coming in, we currently have about four-point-five million a year coming in toward that judgment."

By using a state law that allowed the county to tack on the half-cent county-wide sales tax to help pay the judgment, Gage County has to keep its property tax rate at the maximum 50-cents until the entire amount is paid off.

"We're looking at probably three years, yet. We keep knocking it down a little more at a time, but I say four years, pessimistically, potentially three years. We never know where valuations are going to come in and things like that. But, that's a realistic time frame, still."

Since the county began paying the judgment, agriculture land valuations have stabilized, but residential valuations within cities and rural acreages, are trending upward.

The past year, the county achieved an insurance coverage settlement that also added nearly $6 million to the funds being used to pay the federal judgment.