New Gage County government budget, gains approval

BEATRICE – Gage County government has a new budget in place. Supervisors voted 5-0 Friday passing the $50.17 million plan, following a public hearing.
The county’s tax rate remains at the maximum 50-cents, while the county continues to pay the Beatrice Six civil judgment to those wrongfully convicted in a 1985 Beatrice murder and rape. Without the taxes going to the judgment, the county tax rate would be 38-point-98 cents.

Board Chairman Erich Tiemann said the budget is a small increase from the past year.  "This year, our increase to county spending is at two-point-oh-five percent. I would compare this to cost-of-living allowance adjustment....about a month ago, at six-point-nine-eight-percent."

Tiemann estimated three to four years remaining to pay off the entire federal civil judgment, using property tax funds, a half-cent countywide sales tax and a state allocation of funds. About $3.3 million in property taxes and about $1.5 million in sales tax revenue will go toward that. Eventually, $4 million will come from state assistance.

"We're still budgeting for law enforcement, road material, motor graders. We've replaced or are in the process of replacing three patrol cars which are starting to give us a lot of headaches. We have been running very, very slim, though."

A requirement of using a special sales tax law to help pay the approximate $30 million judgment and legal fees, is that the county must max out its tax rate until the judgment is paid off.

The county has reversed two years of property valuation declines….seeing a $100 million valuation increase county-wide this year  "Thirty million of that was through the centrally assessed, which is pipelines, railroads, things like that. So we had a thirty million dollar increase in value through some of those items. Farm ground is fairly level now. The remainder came from, the majority of it, residentials. Acreages seem to have the highest increase."

County officials held flat the budget requests from non-county agencies, townships and fire districts…for a fourth year in a row. Tiemann said county office budgets had modest increases.