Central Plains Satelite

Commission To Take UP Prairie Breeze II Conditional Use Permit Tuesday

September 5, 2014 by lmorgan · Comments Off 

Will the Antelope County Planning Commission make a decision this month on a conditional use permit being sought for a new wind energy farm in Antelope County?
County residents should soon find out.
The planning commission will again address the issue of a conditional use permit for Prairie Breeze II when they meet in open session on Tuesday, Sept. 9.
The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. in the supervisors’ room at the Antelope County Courthouse. Tuesday night’s meeting is open to the public.
Invenergy, owner of the 118-wind turbine Prairie Breeze Wind Energy farm south of Elgin, is seeking to build a second farm consisting of approximately 70 wind turbines on land east of Elgin.
Meeting last month, the planning commission heard more than two hours of public testimony before voting to table the matter.
Commission chairman Mark Smith, at the August meeting, said a decision on the permit may hinge on the setback distance between a wind turbine and a residential home.
He said at the August meeting if the current distance of 1,000 feet cannot be increased, “then it will be very hard for the application to move forward.”

For the complete story, see the print edition of The Elgin Review.

School District #18 Valuation Surpasses $623 Million

August 31, 2014 by lmorgan · Comments Off 

The valuation of property in School District #18 has climbed to a mark some might have felt unattainable just a few years ago.
County Assessor Heather McWhorter announced last week the school district tax valuation was set at $568,185,395. Add to that amount $15,470,980 from Wheeler County and another $39,516,097 from Boone County and you reach the grand total of $623,172,472. But just what does that mean to the taxpayer? Superintendent Dan Polk set about last week to explain the numbers.
One of the most complicated financial processes in the U.S. local system of government is school finance.
From how state aid is distributed (state aid formula) to how the structure of the budget works; it is complex for even those who work with it throughout their adult lives within their careers or while sitting on local boards. The total budget can grow without “tax asking”–the amount the school district asks from taxpayers to run the school– growing. “Tax asking” can grow without the total budget growing. On top of all the different funds—general, depreciation, lunch, special building, student fee, etc.—are the ins and outs of how they intertwine and state government trying to manipulate and control local government entities who are statutorily supposed to have local control.
In actuality it is far more complicated than the basics to come in this article, but the following is it in a nutshell. The state limits how much a school district can spend (grow) year to year with Elgin’s standard growth to be allowed at 2.5%.
If you choose not to grow that much in one year you cannot grow even part of that 2.5% with the next year’s 2.5%. So you are basically punished for not growing every year. In districts where they are at or above the levy limit you can only grow if you can raise the money…..otherwise you have to cut programs or have an override election. In districts where your levy is lower, you can always grow a little but your costs can expand faster than you can grow.
If you are too efficient and conservative or don’t take your yearly growth allowed, you could have plenty of funds to operate, but not have the authority or growth to spend them; and thus have to cut programs even though you have enough money. Thus the dilemma, be too frugal and efficient and you could be in jeopardy but be too “spendy” and you could also be in jeopardy.
The Elgin board has always tried to balance this situation and has instructed me in my time here to do the same. With the extreme increase in the district’s valuation, the levy is going to drop like a stone.  Does this mean no increase in tax asking for the district? No it does not. Just like any business a school’s costs rise as well. Fuel for the buses and buildings, salaries for employees, food for the breakfast and lunch programs, new technology, new curriculum materials, higher costs for special (but required) special education and English as a second language programs and help, etc..
On property valued at 200,000 dollars last year that went up (40%) to an approximate value of $280,000 this year, the tax asking for the school district will increase approximately $10 a month. If you had 200,000 worth of valued property that did not increase in valuation much, your taxes will drop approximately $21 a month.  Last year’s levy was 58 cents for the general fund and three cents for the building fund for a total of 61 cents. Next year’s levy, assuming all was calculated correctly and decisions are made to move forward with the budget presented, will see the levy fall to 45 cents for the general fund and three cents for the building fund for a total levy of 48 cents. That means the levy will fall 13 cents in a single year.
In my 25 years in education never have I seen valuations increase this much in one year AND/OR a levy fall this much in one year. In my opinion your Elgin Public Board of Education is doing things, and expecting things to be done correctly. They are as conservative as they feel they can be in spending money while at the same time looking out for the integrity, improvement and long term health of the district, its facilities and students.
2013 Tax rates for area school districts according to http:///www.revenue.nebraska.gov/PAD/research/value change bycounty.html:
Battle Creek .96, (1.08 with bonds), Boone Central .79, Chambers .97, Clearwater .95, Creighton .94, Elgin .61, Elkhorn Valley .97, Ewing .95, Neligh/Oakdale 1.07, Orchard .92 (.94 with bonds), Plainview .79, Spalding .95, Wheeler Central .63 (.66 with bonds).

Council Approves Pool Study

August 31, 2014 by lmorgan · Comments Off 

The Elgin community will soon take the first major step towards improving the swimming pool.
At a special meeting of the Elgin City Council Wednesday night, council members approved a study of the existing pool be done by Burbach Aquatics at a cost of $2,000.
Michael Moser and Todd Heithoff, members of a recently-formed pool committee, met with council members to discuss the need for a study to determine what Elgin could feasibly afford and need for a pool to meet the needs of the community for the foreseeable future.
According to Heithoff, Dave Burbach wants to see the pool when it is full of water and again after it has been emptied, as part of the soon-to-be-done study.
Burbach Aquatics was just one of two companies that pool committee members met with. They also met with JEO Consulting who quoted a pool study price tag of between $2,500 to $5,000.
Other members of the pool committee are Bethany Miller, Duane Miller and Mayor Mike Schmitt.
Heithoff also spoke, on behalf of the Elgin Ko-Ed Group on a request for a special designated liquor permit for the organization’s upcoming tailgate party to be held Saturday, Sept. 13. All four council members voted to approve the permit application.
Also that night, the council approved a building permit for Elgin One Stop to extend the concrete area with a 20’ x 238’ addition on the north side
Before leaving City Hall, the mayor and council, along with City Clerk Vicki Miller, participated in a budget workshop in preparation for the public hearing set for Sept. 2 at 7:30 p.m.
The 2014-2015 proposed property tax request will be $139,916 with a proposed tax rate of 0.357977. One year ago the tax request was $135,000.

Commission Delays Action on Conditional Use Permit For Prairie Breeze II

August 21, 2014 by lmorgan · Comments Off 

The Antelope County Planning Commission voted unanimously to table any action on a conditional use permit until September 9 so they can receive further legal advice. A number of issues were raised by citizens at a public hearing which lasted for more than two hours.
The September meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the courthouse in Neligh.
Commission Chairman Mark Smith summed up the meeting in a few simple words towards the end of the hearing, saying if the commission cannot increase the distance between homes and wind turbines from the current setback of 1,000 feet, “then it will be very hard for the application to move forward.” In addition, he told Invenergy officials that the commission needs to know earlier on where the placement of towers will be.
Speaking for Invenergy, James Williams said prior to the commencement of construction a map is provided to Zoning Administrator Char Carpenter showing all wind turbines meeting setback regulations. The meeting room was full of county residents and more stood in the hallway during a hearing which featured proponents and opponents of wind farms voicing their opinions.
Each side was given an opportunity to state their opinions.

For the complete story, see the print edition of The Elgin Review

Superintendent Says District #18 Tax Levy To Drop

August 21, 2014 by lmorgan · Comments Off 

District #18 School District Superintendent Dan Polk gave school board members a brief description of what he foresees the 2014-2015 school budget to be.
Polk’s remarks were made Thursday night during the August meeting of the District #18 Board of Education.
The superintendent said the school will have a growth of just 2.5 percent this year. That translates to a growth in spending of just $119,382, he said. Of that amount, he said 70 percent will go to increases in teachers’ salaries, insurance costs and extra duty assignments.
Earlier today, Antelope County Assessor Heather McWhorter released new valuations for Antelope County. For School District #18, the new valuation is $568,185,395, up from $404,707,805 one year ago. Polk said the valuation increase should decrease the school’s total tax levy from 61 cents. He said taxpayers should notice a decrease in the tax levy for the school district due to the valuation increase.

For the complete story, see the print edition of The Elgin Review

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