Gage County’s budget for the fiscal year remained largely flat, despite a decrease in valuations.
The Board of Supervisors approved its annual budget on Wednesday following a public hearing.
Board chairman Erich Tiemann said one hurdle as officials worked through the budget was a decrease in ag valuations.
“Valuations are down approximately $60 million this year,” he said. “We knew we were looking at a lower valuation countywide as ag land starts dropping. I myself didn’t anticipate it dropping this quickly this year, but ag land dropped on average 7 percent. Residential went up 10-20 percent on average. With those two combined, we ended up with a 1.98 percent reduction in overall tax asking because of the loss of valuation this year.”
The $40.6 million operating budget includes a property tax request of $13.3 million, compared to $13.5 million the previous year.
Budgets in most county departments remained similar to last year. This resulted in tough decisions for some department heads. Sheriff Millard “Gus” Gustafson said budget constraints will result in him not being able to fill a vacant investigator position.
“I eliminated one position I was going to hire and fill that wasn’t filled yet,” he said. “Unfortunately it happened to be the drug investigator, but it was between that and the K-9 program and I felt people put money in that in the community so I want to keep that going for now.”
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Tiemann added the board asked Gustafson to budget a higher amount in the jail budget for inmate health care, which has been a concern for the county in recent years as costs to keep inmates healthy continue to rise.
Another department asked to make cuts was the road department.
“As we went through the budget this year most budgets stayed fairly flat,” Tiemann said. “There was a slight increase in labor. There was a deduction, the biggest cut I think was from road and bridge. We had a $525,000 cut to the requested budget there.”
Most of the cuts were equipment being removed from the budget, including a motor grader, dump truck and pickup.
Board member John Hill added the county is anticipating higher costs for rock and gravel this fiscal year.
“It was up over 10 percent but over half of that was for the amount of rock and gravel that we’ll need for next year versus this year, and it probably won’t be enough,” he said. “There is that additional expense that we’re incurring that we’re basically eating in the budget because the budget is flat.”
The board also approved levy allocations for the townships, rural fire districts, historical society and agricultural society. Tiemann said all were unchanged, and that the agricultural society was the only one to request an increase.