Tax rates concerning Osgood Public Library discussed at county council mtg.

Wanda English Burnett, Editor

Questions were raised about the high amount some people are paying on their property taxes at the Ripley County Council meeting held Monday, August 17. The rates in question concerned the Osgood Public Library.

While members of the library board were in attendance, they too thought the amount seemed high with Richard Parks, library treasurer, saying, “The debt is overstated.”

Taxpayer John Peetz questioned the percentage taxpayers were charged saying it was “way out of proportion.”

While there wasn’t a clear cut answer to the question of why the amount seemed so extravagant, council member Ed Armbrecht requested the library board to bring additional documents to the next scheduled hearing and they would try to sift it out.

Parks said he believes the high rate isn’t correct, but even if it is, it’s something that has to be paid. The debt was put in place by a previous board. “I can’t count the number of hearings on projects where rarely anyone showed up,” Parks continued, saying taxpayers should watch their newspapers and go to the hearings to be heard. In essence, he was saying it’s too late now to change the debt the library owes. “You could shut the library down tomorrow, but you’d still have the debt.”

Peetz noted that he is not “anti-library” but felt the rate was excessive.

Gene Pitts noted that the Milan branch of the Osgood Library has operated for the past nine years out of a donated building. He said, “It (the library) does make a real impact on our taxes.” He also noted that the library board wants to make good judgments for people paying taxes and also for library usage. “We’re doing this for generations to come,” he noted. [Editor’s note: A public hearing in the matter will be held at the Osgood Public Library on August 25 at 6:30 p.m.]

The meeting on Monday included budget hearings for townships and towns that saw no passage of the budgets. Instead every budget submitted had at least one category that did not come into compliance with the state law that says the budget has to be within 3.8% of last year’s budget.

Armbrecht explained that while the overall budget might not be over that amount, some portion of the budget was, therefore the council adopted a non-binding resolution to amend all budgets submitted Monday night, which included every township and town in the county.

With state laws changing from last year, the council proceeded with caution to not cause any township or town hardship. Council President Dephane Smith said, “It doesn’t make sense that you can’t just go with it.” She was referring to kicking back the whole budget even if one portion was over the limit, with the rest under the rate limit.

In other business:

Kim Jolly with the Ripley County Soil and Water, presented council members with a document they requested from last month. This was comparing salaries of employees to surrounding counties. She said it was a hard document to create as Ripley County has one of the largest argiculture bases in the state. She noted that they have lost two employees to surrounding counties where they paid more and had less of a work load. The initial request was for salary increases. This was for information only so the council would have time to look it over before the hearing.

Additional appropriations were granted unanimously to the Ripley County Health Department for the following:

• $700 from H1N1 Preparedness Grant/Social Security to appropriate monies for additional temporary RN/LPN.

• $1,500 from H1N1 Preparedness Grant/Public Education to appropriate monies for public awareness.

• $10,000 from H1N1 Preparedness Grant/Operating Supplies to appropriate monies for operating supplies.

• $1,500 from H1N1 Preparedness Grant/Office Supplies for office supplies needed.

• $4,000 from H1N1 Preparedness Grant/Communication Equipment for communication equipment.

• $1,500 from H1N1 Preparedness Grant/Advertising for advertising purposes.

• $2,370 from H1N1 Preparedness Grant/Travel for health department staff travel expenses.

• $1,500 from H1N1 Preparedness Grant/Conference Fees to appropriate monies for health department staff training.

• $7,500 from H1N1 Preparedness Grant/Computers-Printers to appropriate monies for computers, printers, and equipment.

• $10,000 from H1N1 Preparedness Grant/Computers-Printers for equipment needed to store vaccinations and anti-virals etc.

• $1,137.41 from Tobacco Settlement/Travel Expense to appropriate monies for travel and training expenses.

• $10,000 from Local Emergency Planning for monies to reimburse grant for Hazardous Materials Transportation Flow Study.

Under transfers:

• Pat Thomas, health department director requested $196.56 be transferred from the Ripley County Community Tobacco Grant fund for operating supplies. This was given unanimous approval.

• Ripley County Treasurer Earline Copeland requested $2,000 be transferred from Clerical for supplies. She noted that due to the extra mailing for taxes, letters, tax sale letters, this transfer was needed. It was unanimously approved.

All council members were in attendance: Bill Dramann, Ed Armbrecht, David Simon, Donald Dunbar, Dephane Smith, Bill Warren, Juanita Kaiser, along with Neil Comer, attorney and Mary Ann McCoy, auditor.

The next regular meeting of the council will be held September 21 at 7 p.m. at the Ripley County Courthouse Annex in Versailles.