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Archive for Sunday, July 7, 2013

County begins crafting 2014 budget

July 7, 2013

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Douglas County commissioners will not have to raise local property taxes next year in order to fund county services at their current levels.

But a slight tax increase would be needed if commissioners decide to go along with requests for enhancements in several areas of the budget, including pleas by some outside agencies to make up for recent cuts in state funding.

Commissioners will begin sifting through those requests on Monday as they begin a series of budget meetings that are expected to continue at least through Wednesday.

Base budget

County officials had been expecting a slight drop in property values this year, due mainly to an adjustment the county had to make because real estate in the county had been over-valued in the past.

That would have forced the county to raise property taxes in order to continue funding county services at their current levels.

But county administrator Craig Weinaug said a rebound in the local housing market, combined with new construction, resulted in the total real estate valuation holding steady. And while there was a slight decline in the value of personal property - mainly business machinery and equipment - that was more than offset by an unexpected increase in the assessed valuation of the Westar Energy power plant.

Overall, according to county documents, the total assessed valuation grew almost 1 percent over the last year to $1.156 billion.

Using that, county officials have prepared a base budget totaling $69.6 million from all funds, including $39.5 million from the county's general operating fund.That would represent about a one-half percent increase over this year's general fund budget.

Funding such a budget would require a property tax levy of 36.715 mills, or $410.72 on a house valued at $100,000. That would be a slight increase from this year's levy of 35.769 mills.

Additional requests

Over the next few days, county commissioners will meet in back-to-back hearings with department heads and representatives from various outside agencies who are seeking additional funding.

According to budget documents prepared by the county, commissioners will be asked to consider additional items totaling at least $2 million that would result in a tax increase of about 1.8 mills, or an additional $21.20 in additional tax for a $100,000 house.

Some examples of those funding requests include:

• Pay adjustments: $547,500 to partially implement the findings of a recent salary study.

• Salaries: $182,500 to fund a 1 percent cost-of-living or merit pay adjustment for county employees.

• Capital improvements funding: $561,977 to restore money previously cut from the county's annual funding of its capital improvements plan.

• Health Department: $20,470 to replace money cut by the state of Kansas for laboratory tests for sexually transmitted diseases.

• Children's Shelter, Inc.: $68,204 to restore funding cut by the state for specialized case management.

• Community Corrections: $109,513 to restore funding cut by the state for two part-time and 1.5 full time surveillance officers.

• Independence Inc.: $25,000 for transportation services to replace lost revenue from the state.

• District attorney: $42,240 to continue funding a victim and witness coordinator position that is currently funded by a state grant, in case the grant is not renewed.

• Heartland Community Health Center: $60,000 to replace anticipated cuts in state funding for grants to safety net clinics.

• Douglas County Dental Clinic: $50,000 to subsidize dental care for uninsured and Medicaid patients.

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