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State Legislation Complicates County Taxes

KSAL Staff - October 6, 2015 3:28 pm

Mike Montoya, County Counselor, and Sherry Sammons, County Appraiser, updated the Commission on complications created by recent State legislation. Property owners who successfully protest a property tax valuation keep the lower valuation for two additional years before the Assessors’ Office can place a higher valuation on that property, should market values increase.

Johnson County has filed a mandamus action, asking that the court interpret the new law, which some consider unconstitutional. Johnson County officials are asking for other counties to join in the action. Sammons said that in Saline County, 2% of all property valuations are protested. For large properties, disputes in valuation can impact tax revenues.

Commissioner Dave Smith said that if a property owner waited a year or two to protest their property’s assessed value, the two year moratorium in being able to raise valuation may be a way of redressing a wrong. The Commission agreed to study this further before taking action.

Montoya also advised Commissioners that the court will hear oral arguments on a city/county dispute regarding land annexation involving Burma Road on December 22. The City has filed motions to name additional parties to the suit.

Creation of a “Jail Reduction” Committee Proposed

Smith proposed forming a “jail reduction” committee. He noted that “a lot of different things were working in that direction”. Last week, he attended a meeting on the Salina Initiative for Restorative Justice. Annie Grevas, Community Corrections Director, spoke to the need for judges to have latitude in how they set bonds, which is the subject of an October 8th meeting. Grevas commented that she’d been told that there was no meeting room available at the jail for Community Corrections to offer a “cognitive behavioral” class to help inmates become aware of thought distortions that may have contributed to their being placed in custody.

Commissioner John Price said that a representative from Chase County had contacted him to encourage Saline County to use Chase County’s jail. For $37/day, Chase County will pick-up, house and deliver an inmate. Previously, Chase County housed excess inmates from Hutchinson, but that community recently built a new facility. Commissioners Price and Gile plan to tour Chase County’s jail.

Personnel Matters

During Road and Bridges’ update, Director Gary Nash said that he had three position openings for truck drivers and heavy equipment operators. Price said there was a need to reclassify their pay grade and suggested the Commissioners take immediate action. County Administrator, Rita Deister said workers needed “to have equity throughout the County”; approving salary increases for one group of employees “could create inequities and liabilities”.

The Health Department has a vacancy for a 32 hour/week custodian. Adding light maintenance to the job duties would change the job description, which would require Commission approval. Presently, much of the light maintenance is being done by Expo Center staff. Discussion followed on the possibility of expanding the position to 40 hours/week. Health insurance benefits are paid at 30 hours/week.

The Commission authorized Human Resources to extend a job offer to fill the Expo Center Director’s position. Commissioners conducted job interviews last week.

Additionally

The Sheriff’s Office will continue to weigh trucks randomly over the month. Price commented that there are a “lot of overweight trucks out there”. Commissioner Jim Gile said the State of Missouri fines both the trucker and the elevator when they find overweight vehicles.

Desiter reported that sales tax collections were up 3% year-to-date; September’s sales tax collections were up 5%.

The Commission voted to dispose of Unit 512 (from Rural Fire District #5) as well as some excess equipment at Road and Bridge, using Purple Wave internet auction services.

The Commissioners approved a new contract for audit services that includes a $1,000 cost of living increase for each year, for the next two years.

Happening before the Commission Meets Next Week

• On Wednesday, October 7, TALK Salina hosts two public deliberations on “What Should We Do to Address Criminal Justice Issues in Salina?” They meet in two locations, at two times: 4:00 pm at the Library Learning Center and 7:00 PM at the Chamber of Commerce Annex. Contact 819-6887 or 723-7177 for more information.
• On Thursday, October 8, at 11:00 AM, Johnson County’s 28th Judicial District will present information on their pre-trial release program to invited judges, attorneys and stakeholders.
• On Friday, October 9th, there will be a groundbreaking for the downtown Hilton Inn.
• On Friday, October 9, at 10:00 AM, the Kansas Association of Counties Legislative Policy Committee will meet at 300 W ash, Room 107. It will focus on the tax code. The meeting is open to the public.
• On Friday, October 9, at 3:00 PM, the Commission’s newly formed Health Advisory Council will meet for the first time at the Health Department Conference Room.
• On Monday, October 12, many County employees will attend an all-day in-service at the 4-H Building. Several Commissioners will assist with events throughout the day.

At Next Week’s Meeting

On Tuesday, October 13th, the Commission will vote, in Open Forum on:
• Amendment #41 to Resolution #1254 which would set term limits for those on the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals. On May 4, 2015, the P&Z Commission discussed regulations for term limits and voted 5-1 (with one member abstaining) to recommend denying term limit regulations. Commissioner Monte Shadwick said he does not like “overturning decisions” made by Planning and Zoning but agreed the boards need to have some turnover. Shadwick said that he understood the other side of the issue but believed additional people need to become involved.
• Adoption of the Emergency Management Plan. This is different from the Hazard Mitigation Plan, voted on last week, and can also be located on the county’s website. This is a five year plan, delineating which entities are responsible for pre-determined activities. Emergency Management Director Hannah Stambaugh said “disasters start and end locally” and that when “disasters are declared, the EOP becomes law” for the length of the disaster. Any state or federal declaration of disaster begins with the local declaration.
• Acceptance of a Memorandum of Agreement with Clinical Associates PA, which provides counseling and polygraph services to treat sex offenders. Community Corrections already uses Clinical Associates; the MOA formalizes this arrangement.

Story by: Karen Shade for KSAL News

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