By close of business Tuesday of the Ellis County Clerk’s Office at 718 Main St., 186 people had stopped in during the day to cast a ballot for the Nov. 6 general election.
Interest in the election has been strong since the start of early voting Oct. 22, as witnessed by the heavy turnout.
“It’s been very busy,” said Ellis County Clerk Donna Maskus, “and that’s a good thing.”
That’s not the only pressing matter for the Clerk’s Office. Employees are preparing tax roll information for the Ellis County Treasurer’s Office.
This year, as in the past, said Maskus, the Clerk’s Office won’t have the information ready for the Treasury by a state-mandated Nov. 1 deadline.
As was the case last year, the holdup is a neighboring county, said Maskus, but declined to name which one. Her office has been waiting on its neighbor for values from two different school districts.
“One county, they are the home county, and they are the taxing district for two different school districts,” she explained. “A part of Ellis County is in their school districts.”
Her wait ended Tuesday, when the values finally arrived.
Employees in Maskus’ office will key the data into software to calculate the mill levies for all the various taxing districts in Ellis County. Maskus then provides information to Ellis County Treasurer Lisa Schlegel, whose office can then prepare each county resident’s property tax statement.
Schlegel has publicly criticized Maskus for missing the Nov. 1 deadline, this year and in 2017. She has accused Maskus of violating the statute, saying Maskus obstructs mailing out tax statements efficiently.
As before, said Maskus, who’s worked in the clerk’s office for nearly 40 years, missing the deadline is a factor of getting the information required.
If values are missed, and levies aren’t accurate, then tax receipts could fall short of what’s needed to fund various government budgets.
She and other county clerks in northwest Kansas and statewide say clerks routinely miss the deadline for that reason. The data, they explain, is gathered from many different counties and other taxing entities, including from the state of Kansas. Those values — real estate, personal property, utilities, oil and gas, special assessments and others — are keyed in to Computer Information Concepts Inc. software to calculate mill levies for each resident’s tax statement.
If any value is missing, which is typical, that’s a hold up, the clerks say.
For example, Ellis County shares information with Barton, Rush, Russell, Rooks and Trego counties. The counties share different portions of various school districts, fire districts, cemetery districts, tax increment districts, rural housing districts, extension districts and other taxing entities that spill from one county to another.
“There are different circumstances, and we work with it. We’re not the only one that was waiting on it,” Maskus said, describing a domino effect. “We won’t have our levies until we put all these values in. So others are waiting on our levies. Barton County is waiting on Ellis County’s levies for the Cottonwood Extension District.”
Maskus hopes to have levies available by Friday, for the counties waiting on Ellis County, while at the same time juggling election duties.
“So USD 388, Trego County is waiting for. So that clerk contacted me, and asked ‘Donna, when do you think?’” Maskus said. “That’s where I said our goal is to have it Friday.”
As to when the information will be ready for the Ellis County Treasurer, Maskus made no promises.
“I’m not saying,” she said. “Because there’s a lot to go through. There’s a lot of check and balance, and to make sure the levy produces enough tax dollars. There are a lot of equations to the whole process.”
They’ll get right on it starting tomorrow morning, she said, but it’s going to take a little while.
“We’re anxious to get it done and done right, but it just takes some time,” Maskus said. “We’ll get right on it, but there’s an election going on too, so we’ve gotta make sure we get through all of that too.”