The Scotts Bluff County Commissioners will hold a public hearing in a couple weeks on a proposed balanced budget that required nearly $5 million in reductions from initial department head requests over the last six weeks.
The budget includes a 2.1% increase ($255,000) in property tax asking, a $75,000 lowering of the cash reserve (now at just under $4.2 million), an over $10,000 reduction in the county board salary hike approved by the commissioners in January, and a 3% cost of living hike ($155,000 cost) for non-union and non-elected personnel.
Board Chair Mark Masterton says the reductions to get a balanced budget included cuts in requests for cars , equipment, heavy machinery, gravel, fuel and seal coating on asphalt roads. Masterton says the salary hike for employees was done because the Board felt the county’s employees had “fallen behind the curve on salaries” being paid for similar jobs elsewhere.
Masterton said the county had enjoyed $150-200 million spikes in property valuation the last few years, but with only a $60 million hike this year ( just 2%), the commissioners felt that among the cuts they needed to make was the adjustment in their salaries.
Masterton says they also need to get more revenue from the jail, and have asked Corrections Director Joe Gaul to re-negotiate contracts with the U.S. Marshall’s office, the state and other counties to make sure they are covering costs when housing non-local prisoners.
The county mill levy is 42.25 cents under the proposed budget.