Representatives of local governing bodies Wednesday urged Douglas County legislators to try to keep the Kansas Legislature from hurting them.
"We are doing the best we can to prepare for the worst," said Douglas County Commissioner Nancy Thellman. "Our hope is that the worst won't come."
Thellman's comments were echoed by others at the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce Legislative Priorities Breakfast, which was attended by approximately 50 people at Maceli's, 1031 New Hampshire St.
When the Legislature gavels in the 2013 session Monday, legislators will start working on the budget for fiscal year 2014, which starts July 1.
Because Gov. Sam Brownback's tax cuts will be in effect, the total amount of revenue the state is expected to collect in the fiscal year is $5.464 billion. Current spending levels are at $6.197 billion.
That leaves a $733 million hole — nearly 12 percent of current spending — that has to be filled through either budget cuts, increased taxes or a combination of the two.
Lawrence Mayor Bob Schumm said he hoped the Legislature doesn't fix its budget problems by pushing more of the state's responsibilities onto local governments.
And he said he was vehemently opposed to proposed legislation that would allow concealed carry of guns in public buildings.
"I don't think we need to carry more guns in public buildings. That creates a huge problem for us," Schumm said.
Thellman said Douglas County has already been hit hard by previous budget cuts at the state level in mental health services and other areas.
She also urged legislators to oppose expanding a property tax expansion on machinery and equipment. Such an expansion would reduce county revenue by $3 million and all governing units in the county by $12 million, she said.
Thellman said she realized that the Legislature, which became more conservative after last year's elections, is in the mood to cut the state budget.
"We ask you to make the case for the smallest possible cuts to our budgets," she said.
State Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, said the Douglas County delegation agreed with local officials. He said representatives of local government need to urge their colleagues from more conservative cities and counties to talk with their legislators about local revenue needs.
"You have to get the Olathe school district talking to their legislators. Wichita has a lot of legislators that don't necessarily see the light of day in the same way we do," Sloan said.
Lawrence school Superintendent Rick Doll said increases in base state aid per student would be a top priority of the district. Base state aid has been cut to $3,838 per pupil over the years when the Legislature had earlier promised $4,492 in base state aid per pupil.
Tim Caboni, vice chancellor for public affairs for Kansas University, said the school was seeking funding increases for specific initiatives to train more physicians.
One of those would be a $1 million commitment in the next fiscal year in planning funds for a proposed $75 million medical education building.
Also attending the event were state Sen. Marci Francisco and state Reps. Paul Davis and Barbara Ballard, all Democrats from Lawrence.