County valuation up by $3.1 million since November

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
County property valuation jumped to $97.67 million in July, a rise of more than $3.1 million since November, according to the appraisal figures that County Clerk Carol Maggard reported to the Marion County Commission Monday.

The increase also raises the value of a mill for taxation purposes from 94.6 to 97.7, she said.

County Commission Chairman Bob Hein said this is good news for Marion County, especially since other rural areas of the state are reporting downturns in valuation. He said the increase is more than expected.

Maggard also reported the cash position of the county as of June 30 at almost $8.426 million with almost $1.812 million of that amount in the county general fund and $1.35 million of it in the road and bridge budget.

She said the county’s interest income is running at $9,773 a month with $58,641 accumulated for the year.

Not all the news was good, though, because Maggard also reported 30 delinquent property-tax warrants delivered to the sheriff for collection.

Maggard said preliminary work is proceeding on the 2006 county budget, but she didn’t have spread sheets available for commissioners to look at. When she does, Maggard said the figures will enable commissioners to consider either a 2 percent cost-of-living increase for employees, a 3 percent increase or a 4 percent increase.

She gave commissioners a document to consider from the North-Central Flint Hills Area Agency on Aging that outlines a cooperative agreement to enable rental aid for low-income housing.

Commissioners Dan Holub and Hein said they are awaiting decisions from other taxing entities such as school districts before setting boundaries for the county’s revitalization program.

Builder Nick Nickelson told commissioners he has a customer already wanting to build a rural home in the county under the revitalization program that would give tax abatement.

The commissioners told him to have the customer begin the application process because the program has been approved and only awaits final disposition.

Nickelson said he hears that other people also are waiting to build in the county under the program.

A report from County Treasurer Jeannine Bateman reported expenses for the year from the motor vehicle fund at $53,977 with a fund balance of $68,113.

The commissioners approved County Sanitarian David Brazil attending an international symposium in North Carolina in September concerning blue-green algae, to see if more information can be brought back to address the problem at Marion Reservoir.

Brazil reported his department was awarded a federal local environment-protection program grant of $7,349 that requires a county $735 share for environmental health considerations such as waste-water systems and water-well sources.

Brazil said the grants were created to encourage such programs in counties. Without it, county residents would face higher application fees.

Brazil said in reports from consulting engineer Jack Chappelle that inspection costs will rise in closing the old landfill southwest of Marion.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment now requires that cover material, or dirt, be at least as impermeable as surrounding soil.

This might be accomplished, Brazil said, by something as simple compacting the soil cover more.

When Holub asked why costs may rise as the result of soil type used, Chappelle replied-during a teleconference with commissioners-that rising costs are due in part to KDHE engineering requirements, and in part due to an “aggressiveness on the part of KDHE because of the past history of the Marion County landfill.”

The commissioners gave Brazil permission to purchase foam-filled front-end tires for the transfer station skid loader from the lowest bidder in-county.

County Attorney Susan Robson, while presenting her office budget proposal to commissioners, said recent highway accidents are examples of why costs for her department can vary widely. She recently spent $250 for subpoenas in those cases, and also will have to provide travel expenses for witnesses.

Holub asked Acting Road and Bridge Director Jim Herzet to talk to the Kansas Department of Transportation about what can be done for county residents off U.S. Highway 77. During its reconstruction, some residents have no access from or to their homes when flooding occurs.

“We have to have something in place,” Holub said, “because we can’t wait until an emergency vehicle can’t get to someone who has a heart attack.”

Holub said the people also deserve to know that they have access to their homes for routine activities, too.

Marion County Soil Conservation District Representative Betty Richmond told commissioners her agency’s county budget request will remain the same as last year at $28,790.

She said MCSCD continues to add to its list of responsibilities, sometimes juggling funds to help work at Marion Reservoir until money for other agencies is released.

Tim Oglesby, Blue Cross Blue Shield representative, said he came by to caution commissioners against budgeting with the expectation that employee health costs will be as low as they have been in the last two years.

Oglesby noted the county ended up with insurance refunds both those years, but it went against the trends for other government entities.

He said county employees are to be commended for their part in keeping costs down, but it can’t always be counted on in the future.

He said it is possible for the county “to take a double whammy” if it reduces the health insurance budget to 85 percent instead of leaving it at 100 percent. He said a reversal of fortune could take costs to 115 percent, leaving the county with a 30 percent increase to cover with instead of a 15 percent increase.

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