Current 2018 Shawnee County budget would bring tax cut; commission mulls spending more

Shawnee County Commissioners, from left, Kevin Cook, Bob Archer and Shelly Buhler listened to parks and recreation director John Knight at Monday’s commission meeting. (Tim Hrenchir/The Capital-Journal)

Shawnee County property owners would see a slight tax cut if county commissioners finalized the budget currently before them.

 

But the commission may still opt to increase the amounts it budgets for some county departments or organizations seeking funding.

Commissioner Kevin Cook suggested Monday he might be willing to reconsider funding amounts for some budget line items that fall under the category of “public health.”

Commissioners Cook, Bob Archer and Shelly Buhler, who previously stated their intent to adopt a 2018 budget that doesn’t raise property taxes, on Monday continued efforts they began last week to finalize that document.

The commission made one revision to the budget, adding $300,000 to the parks and recreation department budget.

That left the commission with an overall budget that — if approved in its current form — would lower the property tax levy the county assesses next year by 0.425 mills, from 48.345 to 47.92. Such a decrease would bring a drop of $4.89 in the annual property tax amount the county assesses to the owner of a $100,000 home.

Commission Chairman Archer said commissioners plan Thursday to discuss the budgets for law enforcement, the elections office and the public works department. The commission tentatively plans to make final adjustments Aug. 21, though Archer said it could potentially finalize the budget Thursday.

Commissioners have been using “starting budgets” of county departments, offices headed by elected officials and organizations seeking county funding as their starting points for the budget discussion. Starting budgets consist of the amount the commission provided those entities last year, plus adjustments to cover any necessary increases in salary and health insurance.

The commission Monday considered 13 budget line items falling under the category of “public health,” voting 3-0 in each case to approve the 2018 starting budget.

Those involved the local health department, ambulance service, animal shelter, Community Resources Council, conservation district, coroner, GraceMed health clinic, HealthAccess, extension council, Valeo, TARC, social service grants and service programs for the elderly.

Archer made reference Monday to how Topeka’s governing body plans Tuesday to consider a 2018 budget that would reduce city grant funding to social service agencies by 15 percent from 2017. He said the county would “be doing the right thing” by keeping 2018 social services funding at the 2017 level.

Commissioners next considered five budget line items under the category of “parks and recreation,” voting 3-0 in four cases to approve the 2018 starting budget. Those were for the Expocentre (operating budget), Expocentre (capital outlay), fair association and noxious weed department.

The commission voted 3-0 approve Buhler’s motion to add $300,000 to the $13,477,953 starting budget of the parks and recreation department to help meet deferred maintenance needs.

“We did not allocate that much money to parks and recreation last year,” Buhler said.

She made reference to a document parks and recreation director John Knight provided customers outlining the department’s more than $8 million worth of deferred maintenance needs.

Commissioners could change any of the funding amounts approved Monday.

The commission also:

Voted 3-0 to authorize the parks and recreation department to enter into contract negotiations with Civic Plus’ CivicRec to provide the county a recreation management software system.

Voted 3-0 to authorize the parks and recreation department to enter into contract negotiations with Emery Sapp and Son/Bartlett and West Team to provide the county design/build services to make improvements estimated to cost $368,000 at the Lake Shawnee Junior pond.

Voted 3-0 to approve projects that included $70,831.75 in renovations at Hillcrest Family Aquatics Center, with the money coming from the parks and recreation capital maintenance fund, and $52,000 to replace a chain-link fence along S.W. Western Street, with the money coming from the capital maintenance fund and possibly including funding from the parks and recreation foundation.

Heard a report from Alice Weingartner of Wichita-based GraceMed, which assumed operation last year of the county’s former Community Health Center. Weingartner said 66.2 percent of needed funding had been donated or pledged to establish a community health center in the former Dillon’s building at 1400 S.W. Huntoon. Anyone who wishes to contribute may call her at (785) 478-5901.

Learned Archer had pulled from the agenda a plan for commissioners to hear an update on judicial tax foreclosure proceedings.

Contact reporter Tim Hrenchir at (785) 295-1184 or @timhrenchir on Twitter.

 

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