After many weeks of discussion the Seward County Board of Commissioners came to an agreement on the 2019-2020 budget. 

The total tax request for the 2019-2020 fiscal year is $8,754,000. That breaks down to $7,554,000 in general funds: $1,947,068 for roads, $428,227 for 911 emergency, $26,174 for aging services and $5,152,531 for a general fund, including the $1,200,000 to pay off debt for the Seward County Justice Center.

Commissioner Ken Schmieding was absent. Commissioner Chairman John Culver started off the discussion by asking County Attorney Wendy Elston if she had a chance to see if drug money could be used to pay off bonds for the justice center. 

Elston said that regulations specifically say that money has to benefit the particular office.

“Even though the office is housed in the justice center and part of it?” Culver asked. 

Elston said no, the regulations are very particular when it comes to how money is spent. 

Commissioner Bob Vrbka read from the Guide to Equitable Sharing (drug funds) for State, Local and Tribal Law Enforcement Agencies.

“Permissible uses are law enforcement, public safety, detention facilities - cost associated with the purchase, lease, construction, expansion, improvement or operation of law enforcement, public safety or detention facilities used or managed by the recipient agency,” Vrbka read. “Examples include the cost of leasing, operating and furnishing an offsite undercover narcotics facility. Improvements should not be made on lease property, agency must contact MLARS (Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section) prior to using a department justice funds. So that request has never been made. Is that correct?” 

Elston said she was not aware if a request had been made but said the issue involved bonds and not pre-construction. Vrbka asked Elston to make the request. 

“I would ask that you request the use of it to service the bonds. If you’re turned down that’s one thing. If you’re not, maybe not,” Vrbka said. 

Elston said Vrbka could make the request. Vrbka asked Elston again to make the request. 

“I will have to decide if I want to,” Elston replied. 

With no definite answer on the issue, Culver said his thoughts on the budget remained the same as last week. 

“(To) minimize the amount of levee increase would be to utilize funds as parts of the inheritance fund,” Culver said. 

Commissioner Becky Paulsen asked how much money would be needed from inheritance. County Clerk Sherry Schweitzer said it would be rounded down to an even $475,000 to make transfers easier. 

Funds for a new motor grader are also to be taken from inheritance. There was some confusion on the board as to how much money would be taken out for that. 

Culver said he understood that only half of the funds for a new motor grader were coming from inheritance instead of the full $325,000. 

Schweitzer explained that half was coming from the Department of Roads budget to be saved for a motor grader next year, and a full motor grader was to be paid for out of inheritance. 

“He (highway Superintendent Casey Keim) initially wanted two and we said we would rather than four every two years, three,” she explained. “Because if we take that one out of inheritance and half of it out of his budget now and half of it in it for next year, in two years you’d have three.” 

Culver said he would like to go with half of the motor grader out of inheritance and the half from the roads budget to get only one motor grader this year. 

The board agreed to half of the cost for the motor grader and the $475,000 to come from inheritance leaving  around $3.9 million in inheritance funds. Culver said he was comfortable with that number because the amount did not exceed what went into inheritance this year, which was $1.5 million. 

With the $475,000 coming from inheritance the levy would increase by $.0050 making the levy $.2772.

Commissioner Mike Mundhenke asked what the next steps were. Schweitzer explained next is a public hearing for the budget and to set the tax request scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Sept. 10. 

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