GARNER | The Hancock County Board of Supervisors has pushed back against a 28E agreement proposed by the cities for dispatching services.
The supervisors’ primary concern is the cities’ request that the county pay its portion of the communication center’s annual budget using the rural basic levy instead of the general basic levy.
“I suppose we’re just going to jam it to the ag people in the county,” said Supervisor Jerry Tlach, who is also the board chair. “Is that what the goal is here?”
On Monday, Dec. 3, Garner City Administrator Randy Lansing presented a draft 28E agreement to the County Board the county’s cities, with the exception of Kanawha, have backed.
The agreement has been in the works since the cities of Britt, Garner, Kanawha and Klemme expressed concerns over Hancock County’s decision to increase their communication fees over a three-year period.
The agreement, highlighting items discussed during a special meeting the four cities held in March and subsequent feedback from all eight cities, features what dispatching and communications services Hancock County will provide to emergency medical, fire and law enforcement agencies throughout the county as well as how they will be operated and funded.
“As you know Hancock County does not have a formal agreement with any of the cities in Hancock County for sharing of the dispatching costs for operating the comm center, and talking with all the city councils for the towns in Hancock County, it’s something they want to work toward,” Lansing said.
Currently, the cities in Hancock County are responsible for paying a portion of the total communications budget, while the county picks up the rest. The approved 2018-19 budget is $416,791, which encompasses payroll for six full-time and five part-time on-call dispatchers, IT, training and supplies.
The county pays for its portion of the communications budget using the general basic fund that all residents — both rural and city — pay taxes into.
“As the cities see it right now, they have to get their money from their general fund levy, and when the county takes it from the general levy of the county, people who live in city limits, pay twice for the same service,” Lansing said.
The cities would like the county to pay for its portion of the communications budget through the rural basic fund, where taxes are collected on all taxable property not within incorporated areas of the county for services used, like road clearing, sanitary disposal projects and more.
According to the proposed 28E agreement, cities with populations under 500 — Corwith, Crystal Lake, Goodell and Woden — would pay the communications budget at a rate of 15 percent, while cities with larger populations, like Britt, Kanawha, Garner and Klemme, would pay 25 percent based on their populations.
Based the cities’ proposal, they’d pay $98,897, or 24 percent, and the county would pay $317,903, or 76 percent, of the communication center’s 2018-19 budget, a document provided to the board by Andy Buffington, Hancock County Communications, Zoning and E911 director, said.
If the county shifted its portion of the communications budget to the rural basic levy, then, 36 percent of Hancock County’s population would be paying for 76 percent of the budget, the document states.
“I don’t see any logic in it,” Tlach said.
Supervisor Ron Sweers agreed.
“I don’t think the county wants to be tied down because you can’t tell for sure until you’re putting the budget together,” he said.
Lansing said the goal of the 28E agreement is to provide the cities “some stability” and consistency as they prepare their budgets.
Britt Mayor Ryan Arndorfer said the current system is a struggle for the cities to accommodate because “it’s a big jump for our cities that have problems with our general funds because we’re paying for things that need to happen.”
“When it goes up $30,000, $40,000 for us, that means a lot to a city our size,” he said.
Britt City Administrator/Clerk Debra Sawyer said the way the county’s communication center is currently structured doesn’t allow cities to finance their portion of the dispatch fees through an emergency management levy.
“Right now it’s out of general and there’s no other option for us,” she said, adding that means cities are unable to fund all the services it wishes to provide to their residents.
Supervisor Florence “Sis” Greiman suggested Sawyer look into what the communication center would need to qualify because it “might be an easier part of a solution.”
Lansing asked the County Board if it’d be interested in incurring the entire cost of the communication center and using the county’s general basic levy to pay for it, which is what the cities would prefer happened.
Tlach said the County Board would discuss the item with Buffington and convene a meeting between the county and the cities in the future.
Lansing would like the 28E agreement to be the first thing on the agenda of the new county board seated in January. Sweers will leave the board on Dec. 31, and Gary Rayhons, who was elected in November, will start Jan. 1.