County near end of 2011 budget discussions

July 20, 2010

The Leavenworth County Commission is closing in on a 2011 budget that would create a county codes court while raising the property tax levy by 1.17 mills.

County Administrator Heather Morgan shared an updated budget with commissioners Thursday. It had $140,000 more in general fund spending than the zero mill levy increase budget she developed per commissioners instructions and presented them in early June. The changes reflected June budget hearings commissioners had with department heads, elected officials and outside funded agencies.

The $140,000 in additional funding, which would require a 0.243 mill levy increase from 2010’s levy, was amended during Thursday’s lengthy discussions and could go higher when questions are answered concerning the budgets of departments or agencies.

The county’s solid waste department’s budget was resolved Monday when the county commission agreed to replace the assessments charged county properties with a line-item mill levy for the solid waste department of 0.77 mills for 2011. That action would increase the proposed 2011 county mill levy to 33.222 mills.

Complicating the budget process was the need to fund a $170,000 upgrade to the county’s emergency radio system, $8,000 for a backup generator and $100,000 in maintenance agreements for the system, radio and tower.

Despite that need and the recession’s squeeze on revenue, Morgan found enough money to start a county codes court in 2011. The No. 1 item on a priority list Commissioner J.C. Tellefson developed in May, the code court would provide the county a way of enforcing animal control measures, zoning codes and county-issued permits that fall outside state statute and therefore the jurisdiction of district court

Morgan said the $150,000 would be enough to get the court started with a codes judge, enforcement officer, car and court space.

The updated budget also included $89,000 for the two new dispatchers the Leavenworth County Sheriff’s Office requested.

Noteworthy exclusions or cuts were:

• County Attorney Todd Thompson’s request for $29,775 to increase the salaries of two key staff attorneys, a $4,648 increase for the county attorney’s salary and $10,000 for an investigator.

• A $54,00 cut to Leavenworth County K-State Extension’s $280,287 request and its 2010 county funding level.

• The elimination of all funding for the Leavenworth County Conservation District, which had requested $25,000.

Conservation’s request remains one of the unresolved budgets. When earlier this month commissioners rejected its $25,000 funding request because 85 percent of the money would be used for administrative salary, they instructed Morgan to meet with the district’s board to develop an acceptable budget.

Morgan said Thursday the meeting had not happened. In response, commissioners said the board should be aware its revised budget would have to be available before the county published the 2011 budget in August.

Also remaining unresolved is the 2011 budget for the register of deeds office.

In May, the commission requested a Kansas attorney general’s opinion on whether the register of deeds technology fund, which is filled from a $2 fee charged the public for documents from the office, could be used for salaries. The attorney general’s opinions was yes, if the employee was involved in some aspect of electronic record keeping.

With that, Morgan recommended funding one register of deeds position with $64,721 from the technology fund.

Stacy Driscoll, Leavenworth County register of deeds, questioned the move, saying the employee was involved with customer service and other duties beyond electronic record keeping.

It was agreed Morgan, Driscoll and Steve Wagner, the county’s accountant, would meet to determine the appropriate uses of the tech fund for salaries.

Commissioners also instructed Morgan to continue to consolidate the capital-improvement reserve accounts in 12 county department. Wagner and County Clerk Janet Klasinski did caution that the commission needed to ensure none of the money moved was designated for a specific use.

The reform left the county with three capital improvement accounts: A $91,847 solid waste account, a $1.585 million account to pay for the new EMS station; and a general capital fund of $1.1 million.

Commissioner John Flower questioned the use of capital reserve funds to pay for the EMS station, as he had when the commission approved the bid earlier this month for its construction.

The commission agreed during 2010 budget discussions to add a 0.5 mill increase to pay for the new EMS headquarters, Flower said. If it wasn’t being used for that purpose, the added mill levy authority should be backed out of the 2011 budget, he said.

Morgan’s response was that the about $286,000 from the mill levy increase went to the general fund. But she added it did allow departments to build reserves in their capital improvement accounts and was being used for the EMS station.

She would share a budget with commissioners Thursday for approval to publish the budget in the July 28 issue of The Mirror, Morgan said.

The commission will have a public hearing 9:15 a.m. Aug. 5 on the 2011 budget before considering it for adoption.

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