County Commissioner Dan Holub told seven residents who attended a town hall meeting Saturday that just two property tax exemptions the state has granted in the past decade have cost the county $10.1 million in lost revenue.
The first costly exemption, he said, was an exemption on business fixtures in 2006. Holub calculated that in its seven-year existence, that exemption has cost the county approximately $4.9 million — $700,000 a year.
Similarly, a complete property tax exemption for Keystone oil pipeline has cost the county $5.2 million — $1.3 million a year — Holub said.
He said the state legislature keeps granting exemptions that shift the burden to residential and small business property taxes.
“While they’re tightening the noose, they want us to tighten our belts,” Holub said.
Ambulance service short on volunteers
Holub said the county ambulance service is running out of volunteers as the requirements for certification become steeper all the time and longtime volunteers have to give it up because of age.
Holub said the county will have to consider ending its volunteer ambulance service sometime in the future.
“We’re going to have to do something different,” he said.
That could mean establishing a full-time ambulance department with paid emergency medical technicians and paramedics, or it could mean contracting with a neighboring county, he said.
Old jail not salvageable
When it made plans for the new jail, the county commission planned to utilize the old jail for office space and storage. After the new jail was built, though, many issues were found with the old one.
It had mold, asbestos, and a cracked foundation, Holub said. Using the top floor for storage would have required installing an elevator, he said. That is why the commission decided to have it demolished rather than refitting it for offices and storage.
Holub did note that heating and cooling costs in the new jail are much less than they were in the old jail, despite the new jail being significantly larger. Another saving has come from inmates cooking their own meals.