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Union County Commissioners consider opting out of tax limitations for 2011

The Akron Hometowner of Akron, Iowa

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Union County Commissioners decided not to make the final decision on whether to opt out of taxation limits until later this year. But, they are seriously considering doing just that.

Taxable Valuation Changes

On March 9, Union County Director of Equalization Dot Kist-ner presented the commissioners with a summary of changes for the 2010 tax assessments, upon which taxes will be paid in 2011.

On Non-Ag land, all townships and small acreages increased 20 to 25 percent, said Kistner, adding all changes were based on sales ratio, which is required by state statute to be between 85 to 100 percent.

The county's small acreages were in the 70 percentiles, she said. "It had been a long time since it was increased."

In addition, Beresford property owners received increases on any homes that were over 10 years old. North Sioux City also saw increases but not in commercial, lakes or on homes over 10 years old.

Jefferson also received increases as well as a handful of additions in Dakota Dunes.

Kistner explained she used three years of sales ratios instead of just one year.

On Agricultural land, the method used for valuing Ag land, effective November 2009 for 2010 assessment and taxes payable in 2011, was the Productivity Method, she said. "Productivity is based on capability of soils as designated by the National Cooperative Soil Survey, Union County's Table 1 Rating and the National Agricultural Statistic Service."

Ag land valuations were reduced in Union County approximately 9.6 percent, said Kistner. "Some soil types had previously been adjusted in value due to management decisions - use of soil rather than its capability. Those soils have been returned to pure Table I values."

"The overall impact still kept us within the 10 percent compliance county-wide, which is what the exception rule required," she said.

"There could be an approximately $13 million change in the Ag values due to these adjustments from grass to crop," said Kistner. "So even though ours went down, there were some increases."

Highway Maintenance Issue

Union County has 180 miles of hard surface roads.

The county's plan is to redo the asphalt on 10 miles of these roads every year, said Public Works Director Raymond Roggow, explaining the work may entail one or more of installing new asphalt, planing the roadway and fixing the road's shoulder.

By completing 10 miles a year, it means an 18-year cycle in maintaining Union County roadways.

Asphalt has a lifespan of about 20 years, said Roggow, adding that due to increasing costs and decreasing county and state revenues, he is no longer able to complete the 18-year cycle.

Instead of maintaining 10 miles a year, it's less than half of that being done annually, he said.

Last year, the Union County Highway Department crew completed just four miles of County road No. 23, said Roggow. "We had to split that into two years to do that."

In addition, a chicken manure hauler who damaged 1.5 miles of County Road No. 12 caused the Highway Department to shift funds from a scheduled road project that was being rehabilitated; thus eliminating progress on programmed rehabilitation.

"We wanted to do more up north on County Road No. 2 but we had to quit at 2 miles," said Roggow. "So what we accomplished last year was one mat on 7 miles or 3.5 miles completed."

The county's 2010 road maintenance plans include asphalt work on County Road No. 2 north of South Dakota Highway 48. Last year the county completed two miles of asphalt on this road but with just one coat of asphalt. Roggow prefers to put two coats on roads. He'd like to put two coats on it this year.

Roggow would also like to work on five miles of County Road 25 near Beresford.

"If we don't patch them, you 're going to lose them," said Roggow. "They will fall apart. But, I know now there is no money to do that. We'll patch what we can."

Roggow has been trying to lengthen the chip-seal cycle by using different methods of chip-sealing about 30 miles of roads by adding on a fog seal, which is a light coat of oil. Chip-seal maintenance used to be done every five years on a road but now it's every six yearsi. What cost $7,500 a mile about six years ago, now cost $20,000 a mile.

"(The price of asphalt) just killed us the last four years," said Roggow, who is worried about County Road No. 10 west of Elk Point that needs to be planed.

If the asphalt price wasn't enough creating havoc with the asphalt 18-year cycle, the county doesn't have any snow removal funds; and this year's large snowfall cut into the 2010 asphalt budget.

The county spent $384,000 this past winter on snow removal. Expenditures included supplies and equipment rentals, said Roggow. Of that amount, more than $1 OK),000 was spent on extra equipment, fuel, chains, blades, etc. to handle the large snow accumulations the county had. However, these figures do not include the crew's labor costs.

"Our buying capacity has been cut in half so when we're trying to do id miles, it automatically put us back to five immediately," said Roggow. "That's just on supply — that's not labor or anything else."

The next part of the series is about the commissioners' solution.

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Original Publication Date: April 28, 2010

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