With split votes, county commissioners cut 10% in funding for outside agencies

YORK – In a long budget session this week, the York County Commissioners (with a split vote) agreed to cut 10% of the county’s funding for outside agencies such as CASA, York Adopt A Pet, Region V, Blue Valley Behavioral Health, Blue Valley Community Action, York’s Kilgore Library, Hope Crisis Center, the Southeast Nebraska Development District and the York County Development Corporation.

In the vote, they denied the requested increases and they made the 10% cuts based on what the county’s contributions were in the 2022-23 fiscal year.

This comes as they continue to try to cut approximately $900,000 in expenses from the preliminary budget, in order to be under the county’s lid requirements.

“This budget has been the most challenging I’ve dealt with in nine years as a commissioner,” said Commissioner Randy Obermier, who did vote against the cut for outside agencies.

“During our last budget workshop, we went through every fund,” Obermier said to his fellow commissioners. “We came up with a list and we visited with department heads about making further cuts.”

At that point, they discussed options for different departments and ways to fund operational requests if possible.

Then Commissioner Daniel Grotz asked if they would be discussing funding for the outside agencies.

Commissioner Stan Boehr, while the board reviewed different requests, said, “With Adopt A Pet and the library, I don’t want them to get increases, I think we should decrease them. These are things we can live without. We need to pay our employees, we need to take care of our employees. And when it comes to CASA losing a great amount of funding, well, that was their error that they didn’t apply for their grant properly so I guess that was some sort of punishment in that they didn’t get that money.”

“State law calls for animal control, so we have to fund York Adopt A Pet in some way or hire an animal control officer,” Obermier noted.

“Since we have a tight budget, why don’t we cut them all by 10% of what they got last year, CASA, Adopt A Pet, the library, all of them,” Boehr said.

A list of agencies was read aloud, which would pertain to his suggested 10% cuts, to include CASA, York Adopt A Pet, Region V, Blue Valley Behavioral Health, Blue Valley Community Action, York’s Kilgore Library, Hope Crisis Center, the Southeast Nebraska Development District and the York County Development Corporation.

Boehr made a motion to cut those entities’ funding, saying, “We gave our employees pay increases, which is important, and this will help off-set that.”

Commissioner Jack Sikes seconded that motion.

All the commissioners, with the exception of Obermier, voted in favor. Obermier voted no.

Because the majority was reached, the 10% cuts will be built into the budget.

Following that vote, they addressed an issue earlier brought up by Commissioner Woody Ziegler.

Ziegler asked for an additional $4,000 to be placed in the election fund, for next year, to pay for strictly hand-counting of ballots during next year’s election cycle.

“I’d like to see $4,000 added to the election budget so we can hand-count all the ballots instead of by using the counting machine,” Ziegler said. “This would increase trust in our elections. We will put more work into the process but I think we will see it provides more trust in the results. Also it will take two to three hours more to do it. But there won’t be any questions about the integrity of the machines. It will create long days for workers and there will be challenges. We will have to recruit more election workers. It won’t come without its challenges but the benefits to York County will have merit. This has nothing to do with the people who are running our elections here, it’s not about the people here. It’s about the credibility issue regarding the electronic machines.”

“I just want to say that the board of commissioners has no say in how the election is run,” said Obermier. “That is up to the election commissioner, who is the county clerk. We can increase the budget but that doesn’t mean she will do that.”

Typically, the York County Clerk’s office starts counting primary and general election ballots (with the machine) at 8 p.m. and they typically finish up about 2-3 a.m. Hand-counting could push the process well into the next day.

Obermier said he wanted to hear a vote on this matter, “as this decision would be made by someone else and we have already built plenty of funds into the election for next year.”

Ziegler made a motion to put an extra $4,000 into the election fund, which was seconded by Commissioner Jack Sikes. Ziegler, Sikes and Boehr voted for the increase in funds for the election. Obermier and Grotz voted no. With majority rule, the extra funding will be budgeted for the election, although – again – the commissioners have no say in how the election is run or how the ballots are counted.

Following that vote, Obermier turned to Boehr and said, “Now we aren’t cutting the budget? I’m getting mixed signals here.”

In other budget work:

  • The county board will be using inheritance fund money to pad the cash reserves, purchase a cruiser for the sheriff’s department and a pickup for the roads department – rather than use taxpayer dollars.
  • They will continue to mull over the idea of creating an adult diversion program. Proponents say the creation of this program will help cut costs associated with court-appointed attorneys, jail stays and probation. The commissioners said they wanted to go over the latest information on this theory before making a decision.
  • The costs of hiring an outside human resources firm will be paid with ARPA funds.

The budget work will continue into September. The changes in figures will be put into the ongoing, working preliminary budget – then the commissioners will see where they are, in staying under the law-mandated lid.

 

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