Harvey County raises mill levy

Chad Frey

The Harvey County Commission passed a budget Tuesday, but it was not an easy budget to pass.

At the heart of the struggle was the effect of COVID-19, which is relatively unknown at this point, and how or whether to give county employees a pay increase in the next budget.

The budget presented to the commission raised the mill levy an estimated 0.269 mills — and that was an issue for chairman Randy Hague.

“When we first started the 2021 budget, we all agreed that we wanted to hold the mill levy flat, and here we are not doing it,” Hague said.

The budget contained $90,000 for pay increases to county employees, and Hague had stated early in the budget process that he would not accept a pay increase for his commission salary.

He said Tuesday he believed that administration could find savings within the budget to precipitate pay increases for employees without raising the tax collections or the mill levy. He also pointed out that increased property evaluations would allow the county to collect more tax revenue without an increase to the mill levy.

He made a motion to keep the mill levy flat, but that motion died for lack of a second.

“With the measures we have put in place ... I don’t have any doubt that we can come up with 90,000 in savings to give compensation increases to employees,“ said Anthony Swartzendruber, county administrator.

The commission had approved in July a budget for publication that set a tax collection figure of $13,725,477 and a total budget of $27,327,231 and estimated mill levy increase.

“I have received absolutely no pushback on this,” said Commissioner Chip Westfall. “I have spent a lot of hours chewing on this. ... I spoke to bankers to see how things are going. They are having trouble keeping up with (automotive) purchases and (mortgages).

Westfall made a motion to adopt the budget as published, which was seconded by Krehbiel. The motion passed on a 2-1 vote, with Hague voting against it.

In other business, the commission:

• Renewed the county COVID-19 reopening plan.

• Extended a county face covering order.

• Reviewed SPARK fund expenditures.

• Approved a memorandum with the city of Newton for the application of a grant for law enforcement body cameras.

• Received an update on the driver’s license office. Appointments for renewals are required, with appointments being scheduled for September.