City, County And School District Cut Budgets Thanks To Appraisers Office

By Jon A. Brake

Old timers like to tell the story about a Manhattan businessman taking a short-cut home through Sunset Cemetery late one Saturday night. It was very dark and the businessman ended up falling into an open grave. He got up, brushed himself off, and started to climb out. But each time he tried he could only get so far and then he would fall back.

After several tries he decided to just wait for morning setting at the back of the grave.

Later that night a man known for having too many drinks came through the cemetery. You guest it, (Have you heard this?) he ended-up in the same grave. Like the businessman, the drunk picked himself up and started to climb out. Like the businessman he would get so high and then fall back, get so high and then fall back.

Finally the businessman could not take it anymore and said, "You might as well give up, you can’t get out." But he did....

About the same thing happed to the City, County and School District last week. They said they could not cut their budgets any more ...but they did.

All three governing bodies have been working on the 2003 Budgets and all three cut their budget but ended up with higher budgets than last year. (How do they do that?)

Each published their budgets and held hearings. Everything was ready until Riley County Appraiser Sam Schmidt yelled boo.

On Thursday afternoon the Riley County Commission held a meeting with Schmidt. Schmidt told the Commissioners a piece of property appraised at $59,500.00 was placed, in error, in the system at $200,059,500.00. That is $200 million, with an M.

The appraiser’s staff found the error in a cross check before certifying the values to the Clerk’s Office.

The appraiser’s office has taken a big hit here in Manhattan and all over the United States. The $200 million error has made the news nation-wide.

But the error has a good side. The City, County and School District have heard the call and have climbed out of the "No more cuts" rut and have cut their budgets. At this time we do not know how but they have cut them.

Schmidt told the Free Press Wednesday that he has been accused of helping the Free Press. The newspaper has been telling readers that budgets could be cut but were not.

Many feel the Appraisers Office should have found the error before Thursday. But property in Riley County has an appraised value or market value of $2,113,791,448 that is $2.1 Billion, with a B.)

If you subtract $200 million from the $2.1 Billion it come to: $1,913,791,448. The difference between the two numbers would not jump off the page.

The City and School District had been planning on a 6% increase in assessed valuation and called the County Clerks office when the figure came in at 13%. Schmidt said he looked in all the places were errors had been made before but this error did not show up.

Schmidt told the Commissioners "Steps have been taken to prevent errors from occurring in the system in the future."