The Gage County Board of Supervisors discussed budgets for the upcoming fiscal year on Wednesday, and approved a potential one-percent increase.

Board Chairman Myron Dorn said the county is allowed a set amount it can increase its tax asking. He stressed that the one percent increase unanimously approved on Wednesday doesn’t mean the county will institute the increase, but that the item needed to be approved to give Gage County the option later on.

“We’re allowed a 2 1/2 percent asking increase each year,” Dorn explained. “We’re also allowed another 1 percent, but it has to be by a supermajority vote of the board (at least five of the seven members voting in favor) to allow that. This is basically what we’d call a housekeeping issue more than anything so that as we go through our budget process, if we need to that is available to the board to use that. If we don’t approve it, we couldn’t use it.”

Board members also discussed a budget shortfall with the Gage County Detention Center.

At recent meetings, the board has transferred a total of $105,000 from the county’s miscellaneous general fund to cover the jail costs.

Dorn said at the jail, $100,000 was budgeted to board inmates in other counties when there was no room in Gage County and $60,000 was budgeted to cover medical costs.

In the fiscal year, the county spent $190,555 housing inmates in other counties – nearly double the budgeted amount – and $102,484 for medical treatment of prisoners.

These two figures, which Dorn stressed the county can’t control, were the only two areas the jail was over budget.

“If you would take in figuring the extra increase that we put in there, that $105,000, and take that much out of the final expenses that we had for contract boarding and medical treatment, they were actually $5,000 under budget,” he said. “All of the increases that we put in there were to cover those two items.”

Board member Erich Tiemann pointed out that while the county went over budget housing inmates in other counties, it also spends a lot housing them in Gage County.

“Even though that’s a lot of money for outside boarding, that’s still a fraction of the cost per day per prisoner of what it costs to hold those prisoners here ourselves,” he said. “Even though that’s a lot of money and people hear that it’s a lot of money, it’s still a lot less than if we held them ourselves. Our jail isn’t that size and we realize that.”

It’s been stated that the jail has around 30 beds, but Gage County has recently been responsible for up to 50 inmates.

These excess prisoners are transported to other facilities in Nebraska and Kansas.

Prices vary from facility to facility, but cost $35-$50 per inmate, per day.

Dorn said the board will do its best to estimate boarding and health care costs, but these costs can be difficult to predict and have been steadily increasing.

“The unfortunate thing is over the years those have been going up,” he said. “That’s the unfortunate thing in the county. We try to estimate when we set the budget some numbers we plan on that are pretty close, but things happen throughout the year that we have no control over.”

Reach Scott Koperski at scott.koperski@beatricedailysun.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottKoperski.

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