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Hastings City Council approves 2019-2020 budget

The city of Hastings’ 2019-2020 budget now is on the books after the Hastings City Council approved the budget and several accompanying provisions.

Members of the Hastings City Council voted 8-0 during their regular meeting Monday to approve Ordinance No. 4599, adopting the annual appropriation bill for the city and adopting appropriate sums for the necessary expenses and liability for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Council members also unanimously suspended the requirement to read an ordinance three times. They approved the ordinance on first reading.

This is the second year the city submitted a combined budget for the city and utilities to the state of Nebraska. While the budgets are submitted together to the state, the budgets themselves remain separate, with the utility budget being rate-payer-based and serving a proprietary function and the city budget being taxpayer-based.

Total expenditures and transfers for both the city and HU is $149,402,450. Within that total is $61,503,628 for the city and $87,898,822 for Hastings Utilities.

The city is anticipating revenues in 2019-20 of $234,302,969.

City Administrator Dave Ptak said the city is anticipating a cash reserve at the end of the current fiscal year of $84,900,519, which is the difference between anticipated revenues and expenditures for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

Of the cash reserve amount, $60,216,516 is in the utility fund and $24,684,003 in the city fund.

The city’s proposed property tax levy rate is 44.97 cents per $100 valuation, which is the same rate that has been in place since 2016.

That means for property valued at $100,000, the owner would pay $449.70 in property tax to support the city of Hastings.

Why the tax levy rate has remained the same, the total property tax request in dollars and cents increased by 6% due to valuation increases. The 2019-20 total property tax request is $6,542,750.

Council members also unanimously approved a 5% gas rate increase.

“I’d like to thank staff for all the hard work you put into this this year,” Mayor Corey Stutte said. “We’ve talked about it over and over, it’s not been an easy year. We’ve seen a lot of staff turnover, obviously in the finance department, but you’ve done a commendable job and I appreciate all the hard work. Thank you to Dave and thank you to the staff and thank you to Roger (Nash, city finance director) for really stepping in at a critical time.”

In other business, the council:

Unanimously approved the 2019-2020 fee resolution.

Unanimously approved the 2019-2020 salary schedule.

Unanimously approved the plan modification to redevelopment area No. 1, at 731 W. Second St.

Unanimously approved Ordinance No. 4604 amending the zoning district map to rezone property from agricultural to mixed-density residential for outlot A of the Pioneer Trail Flats Subdivision. Council members also unanimously suspended the requirement to read an ordinance three times and approved the ordinance on first reading.

Unanimously approved tabling the request of Hastings Economic Development Corp. to bring Trail Ridge Addition within corporate city limits to allow more time for the application.

Unanimously approved tabling the final plat for Trail Ridge Addition to allow more time for the application.

Unanimously approved the request of ESI Storage for a conditional use permit for outdoor vehicle storage for property at 1351 W. South St.

Unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the mayor to execute all contracts and documents pertaining to the application for CDBG Downtown Revitalization funds in the amount of $435,000 with a local match of $120,000 from the Hastings Community Redevelopment Authority for commercial rehabilitation projects.

Unanimously approved the wage addendum to the Hastings Firefighters Association Local Union 675 collective bargaining agreement for fiscal year 2019-20.

Unanimously approved the addendum to the Hastings Firefighters Association Local Union 675 collective bargaining agreement regarding long-term disability insurance for fiscal year 2019-2020.

Unanimously approved the wage addendum to the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 9 collective bargaining unit for fiscal year 2019-2020.

Unanimously approved the addendum to the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 9 collective bargaining agreement regarding long-term disability insurance for fiscal year 2019-2020.

Unanimously approved the final plat for Shady Acres Subdivision.

Unanimously approved the agreement with the Nebraska Department of Transportation for the Showboat Boulevard and U.S. Highway 6 intersection. This agreement provides for reimbursement from the state for the casing of a water main under the intersection. VanKirk Construction of Sutton and Horizontal Boring & Tunneling Co. of Exeter were chosen for the installation. The cost of the installation is $65,253.00 with $52,202.40 being reimbursed by the state. The cost to the utility department is $13,050.60. This work will avoid future relocation and pavement tear up with the schedule for the U.S Highway 6 project to be constructed in the near future.

Unanimously approved authorizing the mayor to execute documents necessary to obtain and maintain a letter of credit from Great Western Bank in the amount of $2,784,460 to satisfy the performance guarantee obligations related to Hastings groundwater contamination sites.

Unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the mayor to proceed with the formulation of any and all contracts with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development for the removal of architectural barriers through American With Disabilities Act compliance alterations.

Unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the mayor to sign municipal annual certification of program compliance form for the filing of the one- and six-year street plan and standardized system of annual reporting.

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune  

A truck drives over a bridge on West Oak Ridge Road between Adams Central Avenue and South Osage Avenue Monday afternoon.

An education in carrier enforcement

Overweight tractor trailers cause fatigue and cracking, and shorten the lifespans of roads and bridges.

It’s with an eye on education about the effects of overweight vehicles at the Adams County Roads and Bridges Committee brought in three representatives from the Nebraska State Patrol’s Carrier Enforcement Division to address those effects during an informational meeting Monday morning at the Adams County Extension Office.

Sgt. Aaron Watson led the meeting.

About 30 people, most of whom were local farmers, attended the meeting.

Watson explained that civil engineers use Equivalent Single Axle Load as a measurement of pavement consumption and relative pavement damage due to axle weight to measure the effects of vehicle traffic and determine the lifespan of a structure.

A 2,000-pound car has a .0007 ESAL, a three-axle delivery truck has a 1.5 ESAL, and a loaded fix-axle semi has a 2.4 ESAL.

So one loaded five-axle truck and tractor at 80,000 pounds causes the same damage as 3,400 cars.

“So they’re estimating how many ESALs are going to go down that road, and then they times it by the number of years and that’s how they figure how to budget for that road,” he said. “So what happens is when we start overloading trucks and cause more ESALs, more damage to the road, now the road only lasts 20 years instead of 30 and then they have to start figuring how to pay for that road either for patchwork or redoing it 10 years early, which then they need to figure out where that money’s coming from.”

According to ESAL calculations for legal and overweight axles, a legal, 20,000-pound legal axle equals 1.49 ESALs and an overweight axle of 22,000 pounds equals 2.17 ESALs.

So a 10% increase in weight causes a 45% increase in damage.

Watson said a 50% increase in weight causes a 450% increase in damage.

“That’s why Showboat Boulevard south and some of the other roads are weight-restricted roads, because of the damage it causes when it’s loaded-up on there,” he said.

Farm traffic is allowed seasonal harvest permits.

A vehicle may operate from a field where grain commodities are harvested to storage, market, stockpile in the field, or from stockpile to market or factory as far as 70 miles with a load that exceeds the maximum load allowed by 15% on any tandem axle, group of axles or gross weight.

Watson said a stockpile is defined as an open pile of grain. A white bag or silo would not count as a stockpile.

No single axle shall exceed 20,000 pounds except for a truck with only one rear axle, which may exceed the axle weight and gross weight by 15 %.

“And don’t get me wrong, I think the 15% harvest permit is a good thing for farmers,” he said.

He just wanted farmers to be aware extra weight has an effect on county roads.That 15% increase in weight equals an 85 % increase in damage.

A seasonal harvest permit must include the vehicle’s origin and destination and be presented to law enforcement on request.

The permit must be signed by the owner of the commodity or a representative. It doesn’t apply to the interstate and is not valid on weight-restricted roads.

Because the permit doesn’t have to be dated, Watson advised the farmers present Monday that if they know where they’re commuting to, they can keep the same permit in the vehicle for as long as those are valid locations.

There is not a specific form for the permit. It can be written on any piece of paper.

“You take that paper, you sign it in April and stick in your glove box with your registration form,” he said. “So when I come up on a traffic stop and say ‘Hey, can I check your weight? Do you have a permit?’ You pull out your registration and now it’s there.”

He also advised to keep a copy of the permit in each vehicle that may need to use it.

“I should not have to write a citation to a guy that’s over the legal weight but under the 15%, because they failed on the paperwork,” he said. “It’s too easy to get that exemption.”

AC school board decreases tax requests

The Adams Central Public Schools Board of Education approved the school district’s budget for the new year and conducted a public hearing to discuss the 2019-20 tax requests during their September board meeting Monday night.

The board also met with Drew Harris, the new Educational Service Unit No. 9 chief administrator.

All board members were present.

The budget for this school year sits at $26,472,288 — an increase of about $7.7 million from what the school district actually spent in 2018-19. All funds increased, with notable changes including a $2 million jump in the general fund, a $2.6 million jump in the bond fund and a $1.4 million increase in the special building fund.

“Even though we have $15.2 (million in the general fund) we will not spend that. As you obviously know, most of the time when we budget we don’t spend everything,” said Shawn Scott, superintendent.

This year’s budget is lower than the $28.9 million from the 2017-18 school year.

The board conducted a public hearing for the budget, and no one spoke.

The school board also approved the district’s 2019-20 tax request. Overall, the tax request was reduced by less than 1 percent.

The general fund tax request was lowered from 6.54648 cents per $100 valuation to to 6.46624 — a decrease of 1.23%.

“It’s just the way the numbers worked out. We’re not going to tax anymore than we have to,” Scott said. “We had a little bit of money left over from last year, so we could drop it a little bit.”

The bond fund and special building fund did increase, however. The bond fund increased by $0.00016, and the special building fund increased by $0.000393.

The board convened a public hearing over the tax request, and no one spoke.

Scott said during the meeting that property valuations in the school district have fallen, due in part to agricultural land being reassessed lower. Property valuation is about $3,850,944 lower this year than last, a decrease of about 0.22%.

“Ag. lands evaluations are dropping,” Scott said. “We’re probably about 50-55% ag land, but we still have a fair amount of residential and industrial districts.”

This means that total expected tax revenue from the tax request will be $163,129 lower than last year.

Harris then spoke to the board. Haris took over the chief administrative position at ESU No. 9 in July and moved from Hebron to Adams County only two days prior. He worked previously as superintendent of Thayer Central Public Schools.

Harris introduced himself to the board and talked about a few of the services ESU No. 9 provides to Adams Central, including instructional framework workshops, licensed mental health therapists and grant proposal services. Adams Central currently utilizes the ESU’s services.

“It’s kind of like a cooperative for farmers. It’s a place where you can sign up and be part of it and we can provide some services, maybe more cost effectively because numbers are involved,” Harris said.

Harris reminded the board about the ESU No. 9 consortium — a group of four local school districts including Adams Central — receiving a $200,000 ReVision grant. The ReVision grant will go to zSpace units, which are computers with virtual and augmented reality capability for career and technical training.

In other business, the school approved the payment of $1,193,048 from the general fund to be paid. Also, a payment of $220,000 was made from the cooperative fund. Scott noted this is slightly unusual based on the annual timing, but it is the last payment for the roundabout on U.S. Highway 6.

The school is also going through its Nebraska Department of Education’s Rule 10 process. Rule 10 is the process that schools get their accreditation. Scott said there is normally no issue with receiving accreditation and expects this year to be no different.

The next board meeting will be Oct. 14 at Adams Central High School.