County slashes budget, proposes tax hike
Facing a massive $3.5 million shortfall in revenue, the Leavenworth County Commissioners have made drastic cuts in the 2010 budget and are still looking at raising taxes this year.
“Nobody got off free of charge,” said Heather Morgan, Leavenworth County administrator.
The commissioners are proposing a mill rate of 32.56, which is 1 mill higher than in 2009. A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 in property valuation.
The 1 mill increase will mean an increase of $11.50 for a $100,000 home. The county’s total operating budget for 2010 is $47.5 million, a $4 million increase from 2009.
Morgan said the increase is due to the need for a new Leavenworth County EMS headquarters.
“We don’t really have an option about the construction because we have to move out of our current Eisenhower location,” she said.
On Thursday the commissioners announced the cuts to benefits and the tax increase to county employees. They drafted a memo and sent it to the employees explaining this year’s budget situation. Included in the memo was a list of steps the county took during the budgeting process.
• The longevity bonus program for employees.
• Paying out accrued sick leave upon retirement and eliminated the shared leave policy that allowed employees to donate their accrued sick days to another employee in need.
• County leave assessment payouts. This means if a position becomes vacant, the county will pay out the employees remaining vacation time, but position cannot be filled until the leave payout is paid.
• The $68,000 that was to be used for a county code enforcement officer and later to help fund economic development planning for County Road 1. Morgan said the funds have been eliminated, but the commissioners would still look at other avenues for development planning in the corridor.
• Cut funding to all county historic groups. In 2009 the groups received $71,250.
• The 3 percent cost of living adjustment in the 2009 budget will be reduced to 1.5 percent because of revenue shortfalls. A 2 percent COLA pay increase is budgeted for 2010.
• Approximately $16,000 from the commissioner’s operating budget.
• Survey operations and noxious weeds budget by 5 percent.
• Fair building and fair premium budget by 10 percent. Morgan said the money is used for upkeep on buildings at the county fairgrounds and the fair premium budget is for small “cash awards to the winners of open class events at the county fair.”
• About $50,000 to the Leavenworth County Health Department budget by modifying its operations.
• The Leavenworth County Council on aging budget by $12,000.
• The Leavenworth County Sheriff’s Department, including the budget for the county jail, by $430,000 to reflect the department’s actual expenses in 2008.
• The Leavenworth County Soil Conservation District’s budget by $12,000.
• The Leavenworth County Extensions Office budget by 15 percent to $280,287.
• Both the Leavenworth County Development Corporation and the Leavenworth County Port Authority’s funding was reduced. The LCDC received $84,854 in 2009 and will receive $5,636 less in 2010. The LCPA received $223,872 in 2009 and will receive $24,275 less in 2010. Morgan said the reductions were not a reflection of the work done by the two organizations, but solely as a need to reduce the budget.
• Reduced operating costs by $40,000.
• The amount of road improvement projects in the county to the same levels as 2009.
• $16,300 for the cost of replacing a vehicle for the council on aging. The county was able to procure funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
• About $100,000 in costs by reorganizing community corrections and juvenile services to have the same director.
• About $313,000 from the 2009 roads budget for the cost of gas and moved it into the roads budget for 2010.
• The remainder of the $515,000 received form the city/county highway fund money that was owed to the county from a state underpayment error. The county will use about $300,000 of the money this year for general road maintenance.
• A 20-percent increase in health insurance cost for employees.
Morgan said 10 percent of the increase will be absorbed by the county and the rest of the increase will be paid for by deductible increases.
• $1.5 million for a new Leavenworth County EMS station, which will most likely be located near the health department. Morgan said the county is paying for the station out of pocket to save on the financing costs that would have resulted from issuing a bond for the project.
Despite the drastic cuts and reductions there may be a silver lining in next year’s budget.
“The good news is that there are no layoff or reductions in force in the 2010 budget,” she said.
A public hearing for the budget is scheduled for Aug. 17, 9 a.m. at the Leavenworth County Courthouse.