County keeps taxes flat yet again

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Posted: Monday, September 16, 2013 12:00 am

If Sarpy County residents find themselves paying more in taxes next year, the members of the County Board might hold themselves blameless.

A public hearing Aug. 27 saw County Fiscal Administrator Brian Hanson present a budget that holds the county’s property tax levy at 30 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for the 12th consecutive year.

Due to falling valuation, the owner of a house valued at $150,000 last year would likely see his county tax bill slip from $450 to $447 this year, a decrease that reflects the house’s decline in value to $148,950, Hanson said. Of course, some property owners may have seen their valuation increase — along with their tax bill.

Nevertheless, the county will spend $8.5 million more between Oct. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2014, than it did in the previous fiscal year as spending increases from $116.5 million to $125 million.

Hanson said the spending increase is not as large as it appears. He said $3.5 million of the increase is accounted for by higher landfill revenue, which has been assigned to the landfill fund and reserved for future use.

Removing the $3.5 million from the overall figure leaves $121.4 million in spending, still up 4.2 percent, or $4.9 million, from last year’s budget.

Residents will cover little of that spending increase through their property taxes.

Property tax valuations in Sarpy County increased by $140 million this year over last and will result in $419,901 in increased property tax revenues, accounting for about one-twelfth of the spending increase.

Property taxes and fees for county services still continue to form the bulk of county revenues. Together, they account for $62 million of the proposed budget, with cash on hand accounting for another $42.2 million. Transferring money between funds accounts for a further $7.8 million.

The remaining amount comes from state government ($11.2 million) and the federal government ($1.8 million).

The budget shows that the county’s road building problem is picking up steam after several years of reduced activity. Spending on road construction declined every year from 2009 through 2011 but will jump 28.2 percent this year, from $2.8 million to $3.6 million.

Pending road work stretches across the county, including improvements to land at 144th Street and Schram Road in preparation for a major data center.

The sheriff’s office has asked for two additional deputies at an estimated cost of $108,084, and the County Board recently approved hiring one additional deputy.

Greg London, a captain with the sheriff’s office, told the board the hiring of the second deputy could be delayed if budget constraints required.

Delaying the hiring until April would cut the cost of two deputies in the coming fiscal year to $52,765. London said if both new deputies were hired in April the impact on the 2014 budget would be cut to $30,276.

Hanson’s presentation took place during a public hearing which drew comment from just one Sarpy County resident.

Gene Stoltenberg, of Papillion, was unimpressed by the county’s stable tax levy.

“My taxes doubled in the last five years,” he said. “Something is going awry. You seem to feel that any money coming in has to be spent. We can’t go on with this continuous upswing. Sooner or later you’ve got to bite the bullet and start bringing things down.”

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