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County Commissioners Discuss Tax Increase

Colorado County commissioners, meeting during a budget workshop Monday, July 25, discussed the possibility of a tax rate increase this year.

County Judge Ty Prause mentioned a possible increase of 2 to 3 cents per $100 valuation for various department budget increase requests.

The current rate is 48.2 cents per $100 valuation.

He noted a problem that the county is facing involves decreases in oil and gas tax values, coupled with damage to county roads and bridges in spring flooding.

County Commissioner Tommy Hahn cautioned against expecting to get a large amount of road damage paid by federal disaster relief funds.

“We’re not going to get what we thought,” Hahn predicted.

Overall property values in the county increased by $37.8 million to a total of $2.093 billion, according to figures certified by the county central appraisal district.

But, $54 million of the total was due to new property values, meaning values of existing property declined by $16.8 million.

Commissioners also discussed looking at using the effective tax rate.

The effective tax rate is a tax rate that would produce the same amount of taxes if applied to the same properties taxed in both 2016 and 2015 years.

The effective rate is projected at 49.923 cents per $100 valuation, which is an increase of 1.717 cents per $100 valuation.

That amounts to a 3.5 percent increase in the tax rate.

Prause mentioned the possibility of earmarking a portion of any tax increase to road improvements and limiting the increase for roads to possibly one year.

Commissioners took no action in the budget workshop, but asked County Auditor Raymie Kana to provide information on the impact of various amounts of increases.

Initial figures showed that using the 49.923-cent tax rate would generate an additional $531,201 in revenue.

According to figures from the appraisal district, the county could adopt a tax rate of as much as 55.4 cents per hundred dollar valuation, without facing the possibility of a tax rollback election.

Commissioners also discussed a possible 2 percent pay increase for county employees.

Kana later said that would cost approximately $114,000 annually.

But Commissioner Darrell Kubesch noted that the salary committee had not yet made a recommendation on salaries.

“My question is: Where can we make cuts?” he said at one point.

“We have a number of Colorado County residents who lost their jobs due to the decline of the oil industry.”

The commissioners also discussed a possible increase of approximately $68,000 to fund one additional full-time employee in the EMS department, bringing the number of full-time EMS paramedics to 15.

The EMS Director Michael Furrh had initially requested three additional fulltime positions.

He said that additional fulltime positions would allow the department to reduce reliance on part-time workers.

Currently the number of full-time and part-time workers totals in the range of 50 people.

“EMS has grown into a monster,” Commissioner Doug Wessels said at one point, referring to the costs.

“Everybody wants an ambulance in five minutes, but where does the money come from?”

In other areas of increased costs, Kana also said that the county will be paying an additional $26,600 in the coming year for health insurance for employees.

Other items include, $37,500 for equipment for the sheriff’s office, including tasers and car and body cameras.

An increase is projected of $12,000 in payments to the Colorado County Appraisal District, which is projecting a 3 percent pay increase for its employees.

Additional maintenance at the jail, which is now 20 years old, is projected at $10,000.

She said an additional $8,000 is projected for the juvenile probation department.

Kana said initial projections are for total general fund spending of $12.1 million, including the pay increase.

During the regular meeting agenda, commissioners also:

--Approved an agreement between the county clerk and a company, iDocket, to put a number of county records online, with persons able to request online copies for a fee.

--Left unchanged sheriff’s and constable fees for 2017.

--Set Sept. 12 as the date for a public hearing to a proposal for the district clerk to continue to collect a records technology fund fee not to exceed $10 a filing to be used to preserve and digitize district court records.

--Agreed to continue collecting a $10 county road and bridge fee for 2017.

--Approved closing of the tax assessor-collector’s office for one day on Aug. 18 for clerks to attend a one-day training seminar.

--Went into closed session to consult with the county attorney about a lawsuit, but took no action when they returned to open session.   [-end of story-]


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