County OKs budget keeping property taxes level [Topeka Capital Journal (KS)]
(Topeka Capital Journal (KS) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) The Shawnee County Commission on Monday approved a 2015 county budget that keeps property taxes at their current level.
Commissioners Bob Archer, Kevin Cook and Shelly Buhler voted 3-0 to adopt the budget, which totals about $99.4 million and maintains the levy at 48.18 mills.
Rich Eckert, county counselor since 1999, remarked on Twitter afterward about how smoothly the process went.
"We just finished the easiest least contentious budget I have witnessed in 15 years," he wrote.
The approved budget includes $679,339 to finance pay raises for county employees.
Commissioners adopted the budget earlier than planned, as they had initially anticipated continuing discussions on Thursday. The commission is required to submit the budget to County Clerk Cyndi Beck's office by Aug. 25.
The commission's starting point for making decisions Monday was a flat budget through which all departments, elected offices and entities receiving county funding would receive the same amount as in their 2014 budget, plus enough extra funding to pay employees for an extra pay period the county will see next year.
Commissioners discussed and took votes one at a time regarding each department, office or entity, voting to keep budgets flat on more than half of the line items.
Those included approving the flat budget amount of $3,812,218 for the office of District Attorney Chad Taylor, who had asked for $4,079,703, and the flat budget amount of $440,266 for the office of Treasurer Larry Mah, who had asked for $528,573.
The budget in the form that initially went before commissioners would have added $3 million to the county's general fund ending balance. Commissioners voted 3-0 to approve Cook's motion to reduce that to $1 million. Cook noted the county is on track to potentially end this year with a balance of $17 million. He said the extra $1 million would put that total at $18 million, which the county's financial staff has said would be good.
Commissioners voted 2-1 to budget $100,000 to create a position for a facilities manager and $500,000 to pay costs next year to create and operate a facilities management department. Archer dissented on both moves, saying he didn't think they were necessary.
The latter vote removed the need for the parks and recreation department, which currently is responsible for facilities management, to expend $500,000 for that purpose.
Commissioners were often divided in votes they took Monday to craft the budget.
Before finalizing that document, they made these amendments to flat budget amounts:
- Reducing by $100,000, to $757,798, the amount the county had been providing its ambulance service provider, American Medical Response, which asked the county to keep that amount at $857,798. In seeking to reduce the subsidy, Cook said AMR realizes $400,000 a year in profits from providing ambulance service to Shawnee County.
- Reducing by $52,605 the flat budget amount for the elections office, leaving it with $950,000. The office had requested $1,036,145.
- Adding $500,000 to the public works department's road maintenance budget, leaving it with $4,083,298. Public works director Tom Vlach said all of the $500,000 would go for asphalt. Vlach had requested $4,744,454 for road maintenance.
- Adding $425,000 for the sheriff's office, leaving it with a budget of $15,593,419. Sheriff Herman Jones had requested $17,098,632.
- Adding $352,355 for health services in the corrections department, leaving it with the amount it had requested of $2,980,000.
- Adding $289,873 for wage increases, leaving the total budgeted for that purpose at $679,339.
- Adding $145,610 for Kansas Expocentre capital outlay, leaving that fund with the amount the Expocentre had requested of $250,000.
- Adding $100,000 for the parks and recreation department, leaving it at $13,996,805. The department had requested a budget of $17,481,250.
- Adding $75,300 for the appraiser's office, leaving it at $1,657,690. That office had asked for a budget of $1,803,178.
- Adding $70,000 for the noxious weed department, leaving it at $278,673. The department had requested $319,523.
- Adding $56,538 for the information technology department, leaving it with the amount it had requested of $2,948,114.
- Adding $50,000 for County Clerk Beck's office, leaving it with $846,567. Beck had requested $876,050.
- Adding $50,000 for social service grants, putting the amount budgeted for that purpose at $191,931.
- Adding $49,417 for service programs for the elderly, putting the amount budgeted for that purpose at $591,000.
- Adding $34,561 for the medical examiner's office, leaving it with that amount it had requested of $521,049.
- Adding $33,567 for the emergency management department, leaving it with $240,000. The department had requested $262,106.
- Adding $23,611 for food services in the corrections department, leaving it with the amount it had requested of $968,052.
- Adding $4,900 for Register of Deeds Becky Nioce's office, leaving it with $209,978. Nioce had requested $208,778, which didn't include funding for office supplies. Commissioners approved Cook's motion to add $1,200 to her requested amount to pay for office supplies.
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