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County approves budget for 2018 PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 08 August 2017 12:53


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By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times



Monday, Seward County commissioners unanimously voted to approve the budget for fiscal year 2018.

The vote came after a brief public hearing in which no local constituents came forward to address concerns with the proposed numbers.

The budget, which includes an increased valuation for the county of about 2.2 percent as well as an increase of less than 1 mill to the county’s tax levy, did have some comments from commissioners and department heads before approval, though.

Commission chairman Nathan McCaffrey talked briefly about the county’s process of getting to Monday’s vote.

“The Seward County Commission conducted its own budget meetings with various departments and other organizations on July 20 and 21, where we heard from all of our department heads with respect to their budget requests, asked questions if we had any and heard from other third-party organizations that have approached the commission,” he said. 

McCaffrey said the evening of the second day of those meetings brought open discussion amongst the commissioners themselves. He added the two days of meetings were open to the public as well.

“My recollection is that except for the participants for those particular budget meetings, I don’t recall having any other citizens here to attend those,” he said. “Much of the discussion regarding the budget occurred during those two days, as opposed to allowing discussion at this point in time because we are adopting it right now. There’s been substantial discussions and meetings that have occurred before this moment with respect to the budget.”

Commissioner Jack Jacob, who came on board with the commission this year, said while he would vote for the budget, he did have issues with part of the reason this year’s budget had the results it did following the two days of meetings.

“I’m extremely frustrated with the tax lid situation and what it forces upon us as commissioners,” he said. “I came into this position, and one of the things that I talked about prior to coming on was the fact that I don’t believe we should spend a dime more than we need to, to be efficient, but not a dime less than we need to be excellent. This tax lid situation has forced us into a situation where, in my opinion, we are forced to levy taxes not for necessarily today, but to protect tomorrow.”

Jacob said while he understood realtors wanting to put the state’s tax lid in place to keep taxes down to encourage more home ownership, he was still frustrated with the commission only being allowed a certain percentage of an increase when other items are increasing much more rapidly in cost, such as health insurance for county employees.

“I participated in this process,” he said. “I voiced my opinion during that process, but I want everyone watching and whoever does watch this in the future and say, ‘A lot of this has been driven by folks meaning to do well, but not realizing the effect of decisions they make and what that forces down the pipeline to those who have to carry it out on a daily basis.’ While I will join with my fellow commissioners in passing this budget, I participated in the process of trying to pare it down as far as possible. I am very frustrated with our state lawmakers and would encourage any of them that ever see this to go back and revisit that and repeal it because it’s putting us in a situation where maybe not next year, but three or four years down the road, we could find ourselves in a situation of not being able to fund critical services or the need to lay off personnel, which would then curtail those services. That was the frustrating part for me in this whole process.”

Following a few other brief comments, commissioners adopted the annual budget. After that vote, Seward County Administrator April Warden asked commissioners to vote on the county’s capital improvement plan (CIP) budget as well.

The CIP budget is normally approved at a different time, but Warden said the CIP budget voted on Monday was part of the bigger budget approved by commissioners earlier in the meeting.

Warden said it is helpful for the commission to have a breakdown of items in the CIP, as well as providing the county clerk’s office with the same list.

“Their accounts payable clerk and the clerk review those items as they come in to make sure they match up with the capital improvement plan,” she said. “I would ask that you please adopt or approve the capital improvement plan as outlined in the spreadsheet here this evening as well.”

The CIP budget was likewise unanimously approved by the commission. County clerk Stacia Long said, though, this does not mean requests will not stop coming before the commission for CIP items.

“Adopting this is wonderful, but it will not keep these department heads from coming before you to ask permission to purchase it because these are not guaranteed purchases,” she said. “That is the source of a little bit of controversy and confusion. They think because you approved it here, they don’t have to come back before you, but they do.”

McCaffrey said the CIP budget was approved with proper presentation to the commission for consideration of time and money to be spent.

The county’s overall budget called for an increase of less than 1 mill in the tax levy, going from the 2017 level of 44.380 mills to the 2018 level of 45.296 mills.

Assessed valuation likewise increased slightly from $252.9 million in 2017 to $258.4 million this year.

 

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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