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Changes in oil, land prices may impact future budgets
new deh county update pic
A oil pumping unit stands in field of milo stubble west of Great Bend. The state has announced changes in oil and land prices which will influence Barton Countys budgets in the coming years.

Barton County Administrator Richard Boeckman offered his biweekly departmental update to the County Commission Monday morning. Highlights included:

County Engineer Clark Rusco
• Missouri River Aqueduct Project. The final draft report is complete and has been sent to the Kansas Water Authority. This massive proposed project would divert water from the Missouri River and channel it to western Kansas. The suggested route passes through northern Barton County.
• L&M Construction of Great Bend has begun the last of three structures that were bid last year. Road and Bridge completed the removal of the existing structure and has prepared the site for L&M crews. The sites of the previous two structures have been completed and Road and Bridge has backfilled these structures and the road is now open.
• Met with KDOT for the county-wide safety plan project. Barton County will be involved in the development of a county wide safety plan. Four counties will begin this pilot program. The Safety Plan will identify safety issues and will be a good resource to identify projects for funding by the High Risk Rural Road (HRRR) Program.
 • Working with PBA and KDOT on the final alignment of the K-4 viewing tower. Field check plans were submitted last week. KDOT is requiring geo-tech for the footings of each landing of the tower. KDOT’s requirements will need to be finalized before proposals are requested for the work.

 Road and Bridge Director Dale Phillips
Road and Bridge
 • Ditch and culvert work continued on NE 180 Road near Hitschman.
• Staff mixed aggregates at the storage areas as needed.
• Winter weather on Feb. 4 required staff to plow up to one inch of snow and spread sand and salt on designated areas. By Saturday, Feb. 7, temperatures returned to 70 degrees.
• Mowing continued during the reporting period in the southeast section of the County. Mowing tall grasses reduces snow drifting.
• Winter preparedness still remains a priority daily.
Noxious Weed
• Noxious weed staff continued with spraying on County right of way around signs, guardrails and culvert locations. Pre-emergent weeds control continued as weather permitted along with equipment maintenance.
Memorial Parks
• Staff worked at Hillcrest Memorial Parks on Friday, Feb. 6, staking the curb and gutter project which began on Monday, Feb. 9.
Solid Waste Manager Phil Hathcock
• 917.09 tons of Municipal Solid Waste
• 297.59 tons of Construction/Demolition Waste
• 17.41 tons of Special Waste
• 524 loads of waste received for disposal
• $45,795.97 of revenue generated through disposal fees
During the reporting period, one load of 62 mattresses was delivered to Hutchinson Correctional Facility for recycling.

Emergency Risk Manager Amy Miller
• On Jan. 26, Emergency Management Director Amy Miller attended the Kansas Integrated Warning Team meeting, sponsored by the National Weather Service, in Lyons. Emergency managers from across Kansas, National Weather Service personnel and media representatives from Kansas were also in attendance.
The annual meeting provides a forum for the group to discuss improvements in severe weather warning communications between the groups, which in turn will provide better warnings for the citizens of Kansas. A large part of the day was spent discussing whether it is best to warn for a specific hazard, such as a tornado, or whether it is better to warn for the threat, such as hail large enough to break vehicle windshields.
A threat based warning would be low, moderate, significant or extreme so that citizens would know what protective measures they would need to take to be safe from the weather. The discussion is on-going and the National Weather Service will take the comments from the attendees and continue to refine their weather forecasts.

911 Director Doug Hubbard
January 2015 Statistics,
911 Landlines, 311
911 Wireless, 903
Administrative Lines, 9,209
Total Calls, 10,423
Radio Calls, 96,210
Calls for Service, 3,049

County Treasurer Kevin Wondra
• The Treasurer’s Office processed a total of 1,058 motor vehicle transactions between Jan. 29 and Feb. 11. Also processed were commercial motor vehicle renewals. Since the date of enforcement is March 1 for all commercial vehicles, all the commercial customers are in the process of having vehicles renewed. A number of these customers are from Reno County as their work was processed here last year. This means the administrative fees for those transactions comes to Barton County.
• Information on 141 properties has been sent to First American Abstract for work related to the 2015 tax sale. Three properties redeemed to keep them off the tax sale.
This number was higher than anticipated, Boeckman said.
• Bookkeeping has mailed Neighborhood Revitalization Program checks. Bank accounts have been reconciled through January.

Information Technology Director John Debes
• Sheriff’s Office – With some issues unresolved, the Icop project is on-going.
• Health Department – set up temporary computers in the Health Department conference room for use during the whooping cough outbreak.

The Barton County Appraiser’s Office is in the middle of establishing 2015 valuations, County Appraiser Barb Esfeld said. Real Estate values will be mailed on or before March 13.
Renditions for personal property and oil/gas have been mailed out, she said. The forms need to be reviewed, signed and mailed back by March 15 for personal property and April 1 for oil and gas.
“Office personnel would be happy to answer questions and assist with completing renditions to help avoid penalties for late filings,” she said.
The oil price schedule has been set by the Kansas Department of Revenue’s Division of Property Valuation for 2015. It is $38 per barrel for gravity of 40 and above. This is down from the 2014 value of $84 per barrel.
The Division of Property Valuation has also supplied the County with 2015 agricultural land values. Ag values have increased 14.1 percent overall, following a 10 percent increase in 2014.
These figures won’t impact the 2015 budget, but they will used to set the 2016 budget and that’s when the pinch will be felt, said County Administrator Richard Boeckman. The affects will likely linger into 2017 as well.
Even if the price of oil goes up, the valuation price will remain the same, Boeckman said.
“These are going to be some difficult times,” said Commission Chairman Kenny Schremmer. He is actually seeing land values decrease.
Of related concern is an effort in the Kansas Legislature, particularly from urban lawmakers, to change the way ag land values are determined. The effort has started in the Senate with Senate Bill 178.
Currently, Esfeld said, ag land values are set by the Division of Property Valuation based on the average of the previous eight years of yields and expenses. Also factored in are soil type and type of land (grassland, irrigated or dryland).
However, there is a one-year lag in these calculations, she said. For example, the 2015 numbers just released are based on 2005 through 2013, not 2006 through 2014.
So, if a quarter of ground sells now, the end use of the property has no bearing on the value. Whether it is bought for farming or for hunting, it would be the same.
The new legislation would change this, Esfeld said. It would switch the system to more of a market value one where the end use would influence the cost.
This, she said, would cause property values to increased dramatically.