The Harvey County Commission met in regular session Tuesday morning, taking action on several measures and listening to reports from various county departments.
In the report on state legislative action, Swartzendruber said the Legislature passed a bill, the "Truth in Taxation" bill, for counties for 2021, which will force counties to adopt a "revenue neutral" tax rate based on the previous tax year.
The bill has yet to be signed by the governor.
"The tax rate will generate the same property tax revenue as the previous tax year, using the same current tax year values," Swartzendruber said. "Unless the local governing bodies would wish to do a public notice to all tax payers in that jurisdiction, then we would have to have a hearing that takes place on the revenue neutral rate. The (county) clerks were given the option of sending out individualized notices to those requesting them, but are now they are obligated to send them out for all."
A proposed change in the tax rate would require a public hearing, followed by a vote of the commission. One provision of the bill would repeal the tax lid that exists. The property tax deadline was extended by a day to Aug. 11 of this year. Publication of delinquent tax lists have been delayed. Counties can set up payment plans for current property taxes.
The bill is based on a Utah law.
With the recent reopening of the county parks camp grounds and reduced COVID-19 related restrictions, county parks director Kass Miller reported just two incidents over the holiday weekend.
In one incident at West Park, a woman in her 20s was taken out with an epileptic seizure. One man was arrested at East Park by county sheriff’s officers with no other details provided.
Miller reported work continuing at the cabins at Camp Hawk Park, including preparations for picnic table pads.
"I toured both parks Saturday night between 7 and 9:15," Commissioner Chip Westfall said. "East Park was overwhelmed, packed. Everything was going smooth. I think we had some social distancing violations, which is going to happen regardless of what you do. Out at West Park, there were still some spots to camp. It was (pretty busy) out there. I noticed about half our camping stalls were out-of-county campers. The Walnut Grove campground, with the new power, I think there were only three out there."
Harvey County Department on Aging director Robert Carlton reported to the commission that the Kansas Department of Transportation will fund the county’s transportation program 100% for the remainder of the fiscal year, as well as fiscal year 2021, which begins July 1. The funding is coming through the CARES Act.
In other business:
• The commission approved an agreement for crossing safety improvements with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad at South River Park Road, near S.E. 24th Street, about halfway between Halstead and Burrton. The funding will be 100% covered by KDOT. The improvements will add crossing gates and warning lights at the crossing.
• The commission tabled a $10,000 funding request from Heath Ministries of Newton. The commission will include the request in the budget planning process. The request is "to provide medical care for low-income and medically underserved individuals. Services include dental and medical services for all ages."
The request is the same amount granted yearly since at least 2018.
Health Ministries CEO Matthew Schmidt reported the health service said services provided since the COVID-19 outbreak have been down about 30%, as patients stayed home for nonessential appointments. Schmidt said the clinic did receive CARES Act funds during the outbreak.
"The COVID issue is illustrating some of the value of having a strong health-care infrastructure present," Schmidt said. "We’re all evolving in trying to figure out what comes next."
Schmidt said Health Ministries is preparing to do COVID-19 testing in-house.
• The commission approved $45,777 towards improvements of taxiway E at the Newton City-County Airport.
• The commission tabled bids for two reversible snow plows with flat plate truck mounts. Two bids were received. One was over the specified maximum. The other met the budget requirements, but failed to meet one specification, the lack of dual enclosed spring trips. The commission wanted to reach out to the latter bidder to determine if the required part could be obtained.
The county approved warrant checks in the amount of $114,552.14 for about 200 items for the week ending May 22.