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County passes new budget
September 20, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

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During a Monday public hearing, Scotts Bluff County Commissioners passed a $34,411,174 budget for fiscal 2014.

The budget is very similar to what was in effect last year. However, the board approved a three percent salary increase for county employees, something that wasn’t included in last year’s budget.

According to the numbers, total property valuation in the county is now almost $2.5 billion, up about $50 million from last year. The tax asking was $10,344,245 and the levy was set at 42.777. When the other taxing authorities are added in, the county’s total levy is 49.999, up against the .50 limit allowed by state statute.

In other action, the county board approved a resolution that formally establishes a $1 monthly surcharge on land line phones in the county. The surcharge would be used for 911 emergency communication services.

The county has had the surcharge for years. However, some regional phone companies have balked at paying the surcharge, claiming it was never formally established as a resolution.

County Board Chairman Masterton said the county has lost about half of its land lines over the years as more people switch over to cell phones, Voice-Over Internet Phones and other mobile devices. That revenue is vital for the communications center to remain in operation to handle emergency 911 calls.

Masterton said the law hasn’t kept up with changes in technology. Eventually, the state’s Public Service Commission will need to decide what constitutes a land line or its “functional equivalent” so it is clear to everyone involved in provide communications services.
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