Archive for Wednesday, September 3, 2008

County adopts budget amid controversy

September 3, 2008

After several months of budget preparations the Leavenworth County Commissioners unanimously adopted the 2009 budget amid some controversy.

While the commissioners were able to keep the a mil levy increase to a relatively small amount, 3.5 mills, it came at the cost of a reduction in force that affected 18 county employees.

"This has been a very tough budget year." Commission Chairman Clyde Graeber said during the budget open meeting Thursday. "When we started we were looking at a possible mil levy increase of 14, 15, 16 mils which the commission felt was unacceptable for the people of Leavenworth County.

"We've done our very best to reduce the mil levy increase to the very minimum we felt we could and still provide the necessary services for the people of Leavenworth County,"

Stephen Mustain, of Leavenworth, was the first to speak at the public hearing.

His argument was not about the 3.5 mill increase, but about how the commission came to their decision regarding the county employees affected by the budget.

Mustain said that he has spoken with some department heads in the county about how they were not involved in the RIF decision.

"Intent doesn't always help in the long run if we are not doing things in the proper way," Mustain said. "How were [department heads] able to make a budget if they didn't know they were going to lose personnel?"

Graeber said that they had invited every department head into the at least at some point to discuss potential loss in force.

Mustain also raised the question on whether the county had violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act by reorganizing county positions in executive session

"You are putting the county in jeopardy of facing litigation if we didn't do the process right," Mustain said.

The commission disagreed. Commissioner Dean Oroke said they were talking about individuals during the executive sessions and not about policy

"I don't think any of us here have violated the law," Oroke said. "We know what the law is and we abide by the law. You may not be happy with what we are doing, but it was not behind closed doors."

County Counselor David Van Parys agreed that the commission had conducted the executive sessions properly and that he was not aware of any pending litigation.

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