YORK – John Cannon, executive director of the Nebraska Association of County Officials (NACO) met with the York County Commissioners this past week, talking about issues impacting local government operations and encouraging their participation in state legislation.
“Our job is to provide county officials with the resources to do their jobs,” Cannon said, noting the many conventions and informational sessions they offer throughout the state, throughout the year, to provide education about ongoing and upcoming issues facing local government.
One of NACO’s main objectives is lobbying the state legislature on behalf of the interests of the state’s 93 counties.
“We want to hear from county board members about their concerns as one third of bills at the state legislature affect county government,” Cannon continued. “And we want to know what NACO can do for counties, we work for you.
“Did you know that 4.2 million votes were cast in Nebraska in races for county board seats?” he said further. “That’s the number of votes county board candidates received in the last four years, which means county government is the government closest to the people.
“We also know we can’t just be in Lincoln as our population is distributed fairly evenly throughout the state,” Cannon said. “We started looking at locations in Ogallala and the board approved a new office there which will be opening up next year. That will allow us to better serve the folks out in the western part of the state, as well as our office in Lincoln to better serve the people in the eastern part of the state.
“And being the lobbyist for the counties at the state legislature, consider that 820 bills were introduced this past session and 274 of them pertained to county government,” he added. “You have an excellent state senator in Jana Hughes and please invite her to your board meetings so she is well aware of what you go through, the issues you face. That engagement is vital. She does a great job, but many state senators don’t understand what county board even have to do or even what county government does.”
Commissioner Chairman Randy Obermier said he would like to see some sort of work done on the state level pertaining to court appointed attorney payments. “We had an attorney here, who held his bills for a single client for years and then sent them all in at once. We got hit hard, it was a budget buster. When that happens, it is devastating. Is there anything that can be done, required, legislatively, to protect us? That would be one issue that needs some attention.”
Obermier also asked Cannon how many counties had to send out pink postcards (notifying taxpayers of taxing entities having to have hearings because they were exceeding tax asking by more than 2%), last year. Cannon said last year 30 counties actually had to have hearings and of those, 20 were for the counties themselves. “I’m not sure about the number this year yet, but my guess is there will be a few more.” York County will be one of those.
“This budget process has been interesting this year, for us, and has been more challenging,” said Commissioner Daniel Grotz. “Is there anything you’ve seen in best practices with getting everyone on the same page with the budget process?”
“It’s good to get everyone together, with an understanding of the preliminary valuation, as I’m sure you do,” Cannon said. “It’s a worthwhile start when you say this is what it looks like flat, without any increases, as a starting point. Do that with everyone, together, at once, and it can be very helpful.”
Cannon remained at the courthouse after the commissioners’ meeting, to talk more with county officials about concerns and how NACO can be of assistance.
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