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December 14th, 2018

12 3 18 county commission recapSeward County Administrator April Warden addresses the Seward County Commission about delinquent taxes and their effect on the county budget. L&T photo/Robert PierceROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times

 

Oct. 1, Seward County Administrator April Warden came before the county commission to let the board know that, due to pending litigation, a large taxpayer did not pay the second half of their taxes.

This resulted in several local taxing entities not receiving the taxes levied for their budgets. Rural Fire was one of those entities not receiving its distribution, and that total came to just more than $81,500.

Monday, Warden said at that time, the commission took action to allow her to do journal entries and offset purchases for the purchase of the recent fire building and utilities at Seward County Community College and to pay future expenses from the county’s general fund, not to exceed that amount, for the remainder of 2018.

In addition to the $81,500, the county’s financial software company, Thompson Reuters, recently ran a query, which showed delinquent real estate taxes outstanding for 2017 in the Rural Fire District totaling an additional $37,100.

“That makes the total budget deficit of money Rural Fire did not receive for their budget to be $118,787.15,” Warden said. “When I saw that number, it raised additional questions for me of what our outstanding delinquent taxes are for the county as a whole, and that number is more than $4 million just for 2017. If we go back for all delinquent taxes countywide right now, personal property and real estate, including penalties and interest, it’s more than $10 million. That is something that we’re going to be working on and giving you an update on the tax sale and the process and where we’re at right now.”

Warden said commissioners could authorize to pay for the expenses by taking action and authorizing staff to do so.

“Currently, there is a balance of $9,879.47 in the Rural Fire budget,” she said. “We’ve done journal entries to date of $62,736.02. Other expenses that have had to be paid for building and utilities have totaled $22,237.46. We still have three remaining payrolls, quarterly employee benefits, utility expenses, fuel, and if there were any needed repairs to equipment from now until the end of the year, those would still have to be paid for.”

Warden said she has been tracking all of this on a spreadsheet.

“I’ve only been transferring money as we’ve needed it to try to prevent robbing from our general fund to pay for these expenses too,” she said. “I’m going to have to account for that in the general fund reserves as well, so I’ve just been going along.”

Warden said the commission has two meetings before the end of 2018 to deal with the situation.

“With a balance of $9,879 in there, I do not have enough money to cover payroll,” she said. “We have a quarter-end volunteer firefighter payroll on top of our normal payroll as well as the quarterly benefits, which is where all of their employee benefits, their health insurance, KPERS, KP & F, all of that coming due.”

Warden said she was coming back before the commission Monday to ask if she could continue to pay expenditures, not to exceed the $118,000-plus financial impact.

“If he did not, we would have to come back and ask for an amended budget,” she said referring to Seward County Fire Chief Andrew Barkley. “I don’t see he would have to come back and ask for an amended budget, but I do see where we’re going to need to continue to transfer funds to get through the end of the year.”

Warden said the lack of tax money received also affects the $24,000 the county had accounted for as carryover for the Rural Fire District.

“You’re starting off your yearly budget $24,000 short, and we’ve got to make that work,” she said. “We’ve got to figure out where we’re going to make cutbacks to make that happen.”

The commission voted 4-0, with commissioner Randy Malin absent, to approve journal entries to reimburse expenses and continue to pay future expenses associated with building costs, utility payments and insurance not to exceed $118,787.15 from the general fund for shortage of funds due to non-payment of taxes.

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