The Lincoln County commissioners approved a $53.2 million budget Monday, about $10 million (22.5%) higher than a year ago.
Most of the increased spending will be for roads, plus $4.5 million to expand the jail. The commissioners have not formally approved a jail expansion yet, but appear to be on the verge of it, so money was including in the 2019-20 fiscal year budget just in case, Accountant Susan Maline told the commissioners.
Overall, the amount that will be levied from taxpayers will increase by 19.21% — 12% for general spending and 7.2% for a special road bond. Much of the general spending also goes for roads.
Four people spoke at a public hearing and they complimented the county for budgeting more for roads.
Realtor Duane McClain, who specializes in rural property, encouraged the board to see that that the money is managed properly and spent productively. He urged the board to pay attention complaints from their constituents.
Resident Bernice Ziegler said the commissioners didn’t have much choice but to increase the levy, since the county’s taxable valuations increased by only 0.4%, mostly due to decreasing values of farm and ranch land.
McClain said even lower land valuations are likely in the future, referring to low market prices of crops and livestock. Farms and ranches are operating at a loss.
Ziegler supported the budget wholeheartedly. She said “it would take all morning and then some to expound on the accomplishments of the county commissioners, with the help of good and faithful employees.”
Lincoln County resident Eric Seacrest said he’s followed road matters for several years and not seen a year when road conditions were so painful.
He thanked the commissioners for buying more road graders and dump trucks last fall. He urged the county to build and repair roads with more capacity in mind, and be ready to act quickly when conditions are right.
On many roads, “you either get more gravel there when it is needed, or it’s a mess,” Seacrest said.
He thanked the board for issuing a special $4 million bond for road repairs and noted that the interest rates are extremely low right now, so it an opportune time to borrow money for roads.
Bill Maassen, who lives on N. Front Road, said some gravel roads in his neighborhood remain in bad shape and could be that way for several years, because the road ditches are flooded with irritation and rain water. The soggy “borrow pits” prevent road crews from pulling dirt back out of the ditches to build up the road bed.
The tax levy will be 30 cents per $100, an increase of 4.8 cents over last year. Therefore, the county’s share of taxes on a $100,000 property will increase about $48 next year.