The 1997 Douglas County budget must be approved for publication by August.
Before Douglas County commissioners draw the bottom line on their 1997 budget, they'll have to decide the fate of at least 15 appropriation requests.
Accordingly, that will be the main order of business when commissioners meet at 9 a.m. today. Because advance voting is being held in the commission's chambers, today's meeting will be in Room 9 of the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 11th and Rhode Island.
Among issues on the table will be support for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce's industrial development efforts, a variety of requests from social service agencies, the cost-of-living adjustment for county employees and some smaller capital improvements.
County Administrator Craig Weinaug said he expected commissioners to cut more from his recommended budget than they add to it. That's based on indications he's received from two commissioners that they don't want the county assuming new financial obligations for outside agencies.
``I'm relatively comfortable that when the final mill levy is calculated it will be slightly lower than it was last year,'' he said.
Weinaug proposed a budget calling for $25,782,756 in expenditures, a 3.55 percent increase from last year. That proposal anticipated that the mill levy -- which represents $1 of tax for every $1,000 of appraised value -- would remain constant at 25.517 mills.
However, Commissioner Jim Chappell said Friday that he wonders whether some of the new requests shouldn't be funded in place of appropriations that appeared in the proposed budget. For example, Chappell said he wants to scrutinize a $136,000 package of economic development funding, a $17,500 request from the Lawrence Humane Society and the $76,862 in basic support sought by the county's historical societies.
Chappell said the commission should evaluate those appropriations in light of new requests for $38,000 from Health Care Access, which provides primary medical care to low-income people who have no health insurance, and for $64,000 from Hannah's House, an agency that operates a residential program for teen mothers.
``I wouldn't be a good county commissioner if I did not take a real hard look at these social service needs and then, without public discussion, funded things like the historical societies, humane society and economic development,'' Chappell said.
Also up for discussion today will be the possibility of adding $70,000 to the budget to build a parking lot on the east side of the 1100 block of Rhode Island Street. Commissioners voted against proceeding with the project earlier this year but Weinaug said Chappell had raised the issue again during budget discussions.
Neither Commission Chairman Louie McElhaney nor Commissioner Mark Buhler could be reached for comment Friday.