The proposed county budget for next year is flat — calling for no increase or decrease in the mill levy — but it does prepare for a coming budget shortfall.
additions to the budget sought
On Monday, the County Commission will hear from departments and agencies seeking to add the following to the budget:
8:45 a.m.: $150,000 for the Lawrence Community Shelter
9:10 a.m.: $5,000 for the Ballard Center
9:20 a.m.: $73,023 for Information Technology for a new position
9:35 a.m.: $83,340 for Emergency Management for four additional sirens
9:45 a.m.: $46,924 for County Appraiser to add a new appraiser
9:50 a.m.: $22,000 for the Lawrence Humane Society
10:10 a.m.: $111,272 for Public Works Budget, including request for two new equipment operators for U.S. Highway 59
10:40 a.m.: $196,399 for three new sheriff’s officers
11:15 a.m.: Various administrative issues
The session is an open meeting held on the second floor of the County Courthouse, 1100 Mass.
That’s because properties in the county likely are overvalued for taxing purposes and additional cuts at the state level likely are coming, said County Administrator Craig Weinaug.
Weinaug anticipates a 2 percent to 4 percent drop in the value of property in the county in 2013, which would affect revenue through its resulting tax. A 1 percent change in valuation roughly equates to $1 million in revenue, so the worst-case scenario for the 2014 budget could be a shortfall of $4 million.
Still, the overall valuation for 2012 was higher than expected — and possibly higher than the true retail value in some areas. That meant Weinaug could put together a budget that likely won’t increase taxes for most property owners — at least not at the hands of county, which gets about 20 percent of its funds from the mill levy.
The school board, which relies almost entirely on the levy, hasn’t put out its budget yet, and the city has proposed a slight mill increase.
State budget cuts resulted in about $250,000 less revenue this year and is expecting to plummet next year. So, while 2013 was an easier flat budget to put together than expected, the squeeze appears to be on the horizon, and this year’s round of budget talks comes with recommendations of caution.
Weinaug said that he “will be telling commissioners to carefully consider” any additions and that recommended cuts “provide a means of a ‘soft landing’ to try to avoid cutting services and/or increasing taxes.”
He released the proposal this week and will present it to the County Commission on Monday, during the first of several work sessions.
Increases built into the budget include:
• More than $100,000 for Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical department and sheriff’s office.
• Nearly $73,000 for a county corrections officer, a position that’s always existed but starting this year will no longer be funded by the state.
• $15,000 for the courts to make up for funds that will no longer be provided by the state.
• Another $6,700 for courts to make up for a cut grant.
• $10,000 to the district attorney to pay for rape kits, which Lawrence Memorial Hospital has raised the fee for administering.
• $32,000 for fleet operations.
• $30,000 for the health department to continue a program testing rural water that was cut from the state budget.
• A 3 percent increase in county employee benefits totaling $554,424 in costs.
Supplemental requests — the line items not in the budget but up for discussion starting Monday — could add up to five jobs, three of them in the sheriff’s office.
If any of the 12 supplemental requests are added, it could increase the mill levy, causing property taxes to go up. But it’s highly unlikely the commission would pass something supplemental without also cutting an item, Weinaug said. The proposed easy cuts include $500,000 in capital improvement and at least 1 percent of the proposed 3 percent county employee benefit raises.