Shawnee County Commission OKs 2018 budget containing slight tax cut

Shawnee County Commissioner Shelly Buhler, right, spoke Thursday with fellow Commissioners Kevin Cook, left, and Bob Archer, center, just before they adopted a 2018 county budget. (Tim Hrenchir/The Captial-Journal)

The Shawnee County Commission on Thursday adopted a 2018 budget anticipated to reduce the county’s annual property tax mill levy by 7 cents next year for the owner of a $100,000 home.

 

“Not everybody gets what they want” under that budget, Commissioner Shelly Buhler acknowledged before making the motion to approve it.

Commissioners Buhler, Bob Archer and Kevin Cook then voted 3-0 to finalize the $105.14 million budget.

That document contains spending limits aimed at lowering the county’s property tax levy to 48.338 mills next year from the current 48.345, said county administrative services director Betty Greiner. That would decrease from $555.97 to $555.90 the annual property tax the county assesses to the owner of a $100,000 home.

Commissioners initially planned to finalize the budget Aug. 21, though Archer had said Monday they could potentially do that Thursday.

Commissioners used “starting budgets” from county departments, elected offices and organizations seeking funding as their starting point last week for the budget discussion. Starting budgets generally consist of the amount the commission provided those entities last year, plus adjustments to cover any necessary increases in salary and health insurance, Greiner said.

Thursday’s meeting included some tense discussion between commissioners and election commissioner Andrew Howell. The commission and Howell have been at odds over who controls the election office budget amount.

Howell’s department spent about $1.41 million last year, which is $85,736 more than the commission approved. Commissioners used money from the county general fund to cover the additional costs. But Howell says his office actually finished last year under budget, spending about $161,000 less than his certified 2016 budget amount.

The commission on Monday identified a starting 2018 budget of $1,333,711 for Howell’s office, which had requested $1,665,424.

Archer told Howell that — after consulting with the county counselor’s and audit-finance offices — he was proposing to add $138,370 to the starting budget amount, coming up with a budget total of $1,472,081.

Archer provided Howell a document outlining potential additions and cuts he said justified that move.

Howell replied that the moves Archer suggested in the document weren’t workable.

Commissioners subsequently voted 3-0 to approve the 2018 budget for Howell’s office in the amount Archer had proposed, of $1,472,081.

Commissioners also approved additions to their starting budgets of $300,000 for the corrections department, $84,500 for the district attorney’s office, $86,000 for the information technology department and $25,000 for the facilities management department.

Commissioners made no changes Thursday to any budget line items.

The county’s property tax levy is part of a total property tax bill that includes levies for other government entities, including the city of Topeka, Washburn University, public school districts and local transit, library and airport authorities.

Also during Thursday’s meeting, commissioners voted 3-0 to approve a change order arranging for the county to pay an additional $61,794 to Mohan Construction and Slemmons Associates for carrying out a project that includes rebuilding the parking lot northwest of the county courthouse.

County facilities management director Bill Kroll recommended commissioners approve the move, saying that the county would have faced the problems that necessitated the change order regardless of which contractor had been involved, and that the county had still saved money by having the project done by the lowest bidder.

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

 

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