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Gering City Council approves budget: utilities costs to rise
August 30, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

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At its Monday meeting, members of the Gering City Council approved a budget of just under $32 million for the upcoming fiscal year.
Gering City Treasurer John Mejia said the property tax asking for the 2012 – 2013 fiscal year was set at $1,181,700 from the general fund. The final levy is 29.8 cents per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation, the same as the previous budget year. Gering receives 14.15 percent of the total property tax assessed by Scotts Bluff County.
While property taxes in Gering remain the same, the cost of utilities will increase an overall average of 6.83 percent. The largest increase is 15 percent for wastewater treatment. The second largest hike is 12 percent for landfill fees. That translates into about one dollar more per month for most users.
Council members Don Christensen and Jill McFarland were both unhappy with the utility rate hikes. But McFarland said the city didn’t have much choice due to its own increased costs and the need to maintain the city’s infrastructure.
Breaking down the $31,892,822 budget, 13.3 percent goes toward transfers among departments, 20.7 percent for personnel, 47.2 percent for operating expenses, 50.3 percent for capital outlay and 3.5 percent for debt service.
Mejia said the budget is a 4.66 percent increase from the previous year, primarily due to a 28 percent hike in the city’s cost of health insurance for employees.
“The national economy is having an effect on everyone,” Mejia said. “We’re looking to re-establishing our reserves so we can remain sustainable into the future.”
Later in the meeting, council members went into executive session and decided to take no further action on the possible acquisition of the old McKinley school building and surrounding property.
The 1920s era abandoned school building has become an eyesore and area residents want some kind of action taken. The city had proposed razing the building to make room for new housing. However, demolition costs could run in the $250,000 range.
The city made a purchase offer to Bill Brashear, the property owner, which was rejected. Brashear countered with a price almost double what the city was offering.
Council member Larry Gibbs said the ball is now in Brashear’s court. The building couldn’t be sold to another buyer in its current condition. And the city is unwilling to pay more than it originally offered because of demolition costs.
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