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Archive for Tuesday, December 10, 2002

County plans lower staff raises

State budget cuts lead commissioners to reduce cost-of-living increase

December 10, 2002

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Sheriff's deputies, equipment operators, treasurer's clerks and all other Douglas County employees will share in the financial pain brought on by the state's latest budget cuts.

Monday morning, Douglas County commissioners said they would cut employees' annual cost of living increases from 3 percent to 2 percent, effective Jan. 1.

The move, to be approved Wednesday night, would save the county about $125,000 next year and go toward filling an anticipated $1.8 million budget hole opened by the latest round of state budget cuts.

Officials had discussed eliminating the across-the-board pay raises for the county's 380 employees, but commissioners quickly pulled that option off the table.

"We're a work force-driven organization," Commissioner Charles Jones said. "We have to attract good people and maintain a certain level of staff morale. This reduction is something we have to do, but we've got a long way to go."

Commissioners are struggling to remove $1.8 million in spending from the county's $39 million budget for next year. Commissioners started the process Monday morning during a work session with area legislators.

Commissioners started by deciding against joining a possible lawsuit being considered by the Kansas Association of Counties. The suit, as proposed and backed by at least 10 other county governments, would seek to recover $48 million in cuts to area governments ordered by Gov. Bill Graves.

Lawrence city commissioners last week agreed to support such legal action, but their county counterparts opted out.

"I think we need to be perceived as a part of the solution and not as a part of the problem," said Craig Weinaug, county administrator.

County commissioners then lobbied incumbent and incoming state legislators: Sen. Bob Lyon, R-Winchester; Sen.-elect Mark Buhler, R-Lawrence; Rep.-elect Tom Holland, D-Lawrence; and Rep. Roger Toelkes, D-Topeka.

All four said they would do what they could at the Statehouse.

"I hope there's a growing intent to do the business of the state and not do it on the backs of others," said Buhler, a former county commissioner who will take Sen. Sandy Praeger's seat when she's sworn in next month as insurance commissioner.

Top administrators or representatives from 11 county departments also attended the meeting.

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