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Higher taxes on way





A revised 2013 budget, which will raise the mill levy and county residents' taxes, was passed unanimously by Ellis County commissioners Monday evening.

It had been anticipated by County Administrator Greg Sund that the county's mill levy would have to be raised to bring in revenue for large road improvements starting in 2013. The county's mill levy will increase by .99 mills to 35 mills.

The projected mill before revision was estimated at 35.663.

"When you consider the fact that you added $600,000 to this budget for major road improvements and a mill is worth just slightly less than $400,000, that was done without an increase for that total project," Sund told commissioners.

With the mill levy increase and a projected 2-percent increase in county property valuation, a property taxpayer owning a $150,000 home can expect to pay approximately $42 more per year in property tax to fund county government.

During the public budget hearing, questions were raised by Ellis County resident Roger Ewing, who had concerns about interest rates increasing during the course of the 10-year period estimated for county road improvement projects. He also objected to the proposed increase in property taxes.

"We have a problem with property taxes going too high," he said. "Maybe somebody else needs to look at the budget.

"Maybe you ought to get a citizens' committee to look at it before you pass it."

Commissioner Swede Holmgren pointed out the issue of county road improvements needs to be addressed. Increased traffic and heavier, larger vehicles have caused the roads to "suffer the consequences," he said.

"We've reached a point in the county where some of our roads and some of our bridges are becoming safety issues," Holmgren said.

In other business:

* Commissioners approved an environmental assessment for Rural Water District 1C.

* Public Works Director Mike Graf discussed the possibility of purchasing a Caterpillar pneumatic roller, which has been under lease by the county this summer. Commissioners directed Graf to provide them with competitors' pricing for pneumatic rollers at a later commission meeting.

* Commissioners approved 3-0 leases for a VHF base radio and VHF repeater systems for the Springhill radio tower. A lease for amateur radio equipment was tabled pending receipt of more information.

* Sund reported to commissioners there likely will be no need to finance a portion of the 55th Street radio tower upgrade due to original, cellular and SB 50 911 funds.