Adams County officials will continue tinkering with the 2021-22 budget, trying to chip away at what now stands as a 21% tax rate increase, right up until they approve the budget on Sept. 7.
The team of county officials who prepared the budget — Highway Superintendent Dawn Miller, Zoning Administrator Judy Mignery and Information Technology Coordinator Ron Kucera — presented the proposed budget during the Adams County Board of Commissioners meeting Aug. 17.
The current proposed tax levy rate is .364877, or 36.4877 cents per $100 of taxable valuation, which is about 21% higher than .300488 last year.
That means for property valued at $100,000, the owner would pay $364.88 in property tax to support Adams County compared to $300.49 last year.
However, members of the budget preparation team as well as county board members on the budget committee — Chuck Neumann, Glen Larsen and Michael Stromer — were adamant they would continue to work to minimize that increase, including communicating with department heads to see if there were additional cuts that could be made.
Revenues are down and the county valuation increase remained flat at 1%, both factors contributing to the need for additional taxes.
Budget preparation team members also recommended transferring $500,000 out of the county’s inheritance fund to the general fund for operations. The transfer amount was $1.3 million last year.
Measures discussed Tuesday included transferring an additional $100,000 from the inheritance fund for $600,000 total and reducing tax collection for the city’s planned justice center by $200,000, down to $482,000 from a proposed $682,000.
The county’s first principal payment for the justice center bond will be in 2023.
“We could ask the officeholders and department heads to go back over their budget and see if there’s any help they could give us,” Neumann said. “If they could help us, so be it. If not, we’re going to have to do it ourselves.”
County board members discussed the possibility of a flat cut of 1% for county department budgets.
“If they could get this down where we wouldn’t have to do that much, maybe we would only have to ask them to cut back .2%,” Commissioner Dale Curtis said.
Neumann hoped to cut the 6-cent increase in half.
“Just cutting it in half, I think I could live with that,” he said.
Curtis said county departments have responded well each time the county board asked them to watch their budgets.
“Every time we’ve gone to the elected officials, they’ve come up strong for us,” he said. “I think we need to go back and talk to them all. We can’t punish the ones who really need (increases).”
Earlier in the meeting, Curtis gave an update on the justice center project.
Because of material costs, the project still is coming in over budget. So now the county will shift its plan to constructing just a jail on the south edge of Hastings, not a justice center that also includes office space for county departments associated with the legal system.
County maintenance supervisor Tom Reichert was in attendance at the meeting.
His budget had been set to increase because of the anticipated need to service the justice center.
“Now with it pretty much being decided that there’s only going to be a jail, which will be more self-efficient, they won’t need my maintenance person there to do the little things — setting up chairs and stuff like that like we would’ve had to do for the courts and all the other offices,” he said.
Reichert said his department’s budget could be decreased $40,000 because he won’t have to hire an additional employee. Including $8,000 that was previously cut from the maintenance budget, Reichert’s department cut $48,000.
Mignery suggested talking with other department heads who previously factored in the justice center into their budgets.