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Commissioners approve upcoming fiscal year budget
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Commissioners approve upcoming fiscal year budget

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Scotts Bluff County Commissioners approved a $12.9 million property tax asking to fund its’ 2021-2022 budget, but the increase is made possible due to an increase in property tax valuations.

The commissioners approved the budget for the upcoming fiscal year during a Sept. 10 meeting.

In an introductory budget message that accompanied budget materials, the introduction said, “The Scotts Bluff County Board of Commissioners remains committed to providing the best possible services in a fiscally conservative manner.”

Scotts Bluff County was able to increase its tax-asking, while reducing its levy slightly, 4%, due to increased property tax valuations, Lisa Rien, management accountant, said as she outlined the budget for commissioners. Valuations for Scotts Bluff County increased by $86,665,325, or 2.836%, compared to last year, increasing to $3,145,013,257

The levy request for Scotts Bluff County is .412914, compared to .429314 last year, which is a slight levy decrease despite the include of levies allocated to rural fire districts, cemetery districts, drainage districts, agriculture districts and the airport. For property tax owners, unless their valuations increase, that means they’ll have a tax bill that will remain virtually the same compared to last year. The county is allowed to assess a levy of 45 cents per $1,000 in property tax valuation and its total levy, including the interlocal agreements, can’t exceed 50 cents.

An estimated $7.7 million of the property tax asking is slated for the county’s general fund. Budget disbursements appropriated for the Scotts Bluff County Road’s Department budgets of $5.01 million for its road and bridge fund, $1.1 million for highway/bridge buy back and an estimated $6,800 for its road and bridge construction fund.

Commissioner Mark Harris touted the Scotts Bluff County Detention Center, which she called a “previous drain on the budget,” as “fixed, basically” as far as budget woes. Rein said the center is no longer providing services at a loss, with contracts for federal, state and local detainees updated during the 2020 fiscal year. She said that the detention center, which has a maximum capacity of 286 detainees, didn’t encounter any low occupancy in the last year, despite COVID-19 operational challenges in the last year, which necessitated some changes to keep staff and inmates “as safe as possible.” According to the budget summary, the Scotts Bluff County Detention Center disbursements for the upcoming budget year have been estimated at $6.8 million, compared to $6.3 million last year and $6.1 million in 2019-2020.

Rien said that the outstanding bond amount for the detention center is at $11.2 million. If bond rates remain low, she said, the county plans to research re-financing the 2017 jail bond in the upcoming year.

One of the noted budget changes this year was a change in rental revenue, with the U.S. Bank drive-thru building at 1650 10th Street vacated in January 2021. The county advertised for requests for proposals to rent that facility this year, but received no offers. The building is currently vacant. Scotts Bluff County also rents the larger former US Bank building that adjoins to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and is required by statute to provide 11,000 square foot based on 1983 use to the agency. The state advertised for requests for proposals with possible consideration of relocating over the summer, but as of this week, the Star-Herald still had not yet received any update on its selection or consideration process after receiving RFP’s last month.

Scotts Bluff County budgets more than $2.5 million in interlocal agreements, which is funded by a five-cent allowance. Those interlocal agreements include the Scotts Bluff County Communications Center, with two interlocal agreements listed: a $1.2 million interlocal agreement among all Scotts Bluff County entities that has been in place since 1990 and amended in 1997 and an interlocal agreement of $44,500 for funding equipment purchases. Interlocal agreements are exempt from the levy lid.

In 2021, the legislature enacted LB 148, which required all entities to hold budget hearings separate from usually scheduled meetings and that any persons wishing to speak on the budget would be allowed to speak. During the Scotts Bluff County Commissioner’s budget hearing, no members of the public, except for the Star-Herald, attended to speak on the budget.

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