Increased property taxes leave county commissioners with split views

Local4 News at 6
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 9:40 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - We’re in the midst of budget season for local governments, and these decisions can significantly impact the taxes you pay.

The Hall County Board is actively seeking solutions to address residents’ concerns about high property taxes. Next year’s fiscal budget, starting October 1, will exceed $81 million with more than $24 million coming from property taxes. That’s a 2.8 percent increase from last year.

County Commissioner, Pamela Lancaster said the increase is lower than the levee. She said that most of the county’s revenue comes from property taxes.

While commissioners’ salaries have gone up three percent, the county’s health insurance costs have risen by at least five percent. As a result, the county had to dip into its reserve funds to balance the budget.

However, the biggest takeaway from this hearing was Commissioner Gary Quandt’s proposal to reduce property taxes by $2 million, which was rejected in a 5 to 2 vote.

“From my perspective, we have more of a responsibility than a one year budget,” said Lancaster. “We have responsibility for the longevity the well being of Hall County for years and years and years to come.”

Lancaster said they only want to ask residents for the minimum amount of tax dollars and that they must keep some in the reserve to cover the expenses of the county board.

She said that as a board of commissioners, it’s their duty to do what’s right for the long-term well-being of Hall County residents. This allows them to continue providing services that residents value.

Quandt’s proposal would’ve saved taxpayers money.

“Lying down the mill levee by $2 million dollars, that would’ve lowered it another $30 dollars,” said Hall County Commissioner, Gary Quandt. “It would’ve only been $60 dollars on $200,000 with evaluation with the other $30. It was just trying to help the taxpayers out.”

Quandt said he fears the result of the hearing will force some to move out of their homes. He said he wore black to the public hearing to represent his view of county commissioners burying residents in property taxes.

Quandt added that he’s served on the county board over 20 years and has never seen a county board hoard tax dollars like they are now. District Two County Commissioner, Karen Breadthauer was his only supporter, but some residents have also expressed their frustrations with the property tax increase.

While the plan was to use reserve funds to balance the budget, some constituents would rather use those funds for other reasons.

“We bought motor graders that were really in need of replacement,” said Lancaster. “We bought Sheriff’s cars, our Sheriff’s cars a number of them, a large number of them were over 100,000 miles we us that money to do that.”

Lancaster said they need those reserve funds for any unexpected expenses. Currently, they’re using ARPA funds to replace the Hall County Administration Building HVAC system, which hasn’t been updated since it was built over 30 years ago.

Quandt on the other hand, feels there’s still plenty available to give residents property tax relief.

“We’ve got $7 million dollars in inheritance,” said Quandt. “We have Keno money, there’s like $400,000 in there. We have the money from the casino that just opened up out in Fonner Park. That’s all, there’s like almost a half million dollars there. That was all intended for proper tax relief. That money is still sitting there.”

Quandt said the board chose not to use those funds, but if they had, a tax increase would have been unnecessary, and the county would still have money in reserve. Instead, they chose not to help the taxpayer.