Douglas County commissioners voted tonight to approve a $64.6 million budget for 2014 after nobody showed up in time to speak during the public hearing.
The budget calls for a little more than $2 million in new spending next year, much of which will fund salary enhancements for county employees and to make up for funding that is being cut in the state budget for certain community programs and agencies.
Looking out over the empty seats in the audience area of the room, commissioners opened and closed the official public hearing in a matter of seconds. After a few brief comments about the overall budget, commissioners voted 3-0 to pass it with no further amendments.
In fact, commissioners were about to adjourn the meeting and go home when one person showed up, about three minutes after the hearing was supposed to start, asking to make a comment.
Bob Suderman, a member of the Douglas County Community Corrections advisory board, voiced support for continuing to fund positions for that agency that may no longer receive state grant funding.
According to budget documents, the Community Corrections program is in danger of losing 1.5 full-time equivalent positions for people who supervise inmates released from the county jail on probation or work-release.
"I think it's important to make the point that the service provided by Community Corrections is important," Suderman said.
Those positions are funded with grants from the state. County officials have said they are not certain that the grants will be renewed for next year because of cuts the Kansas Legislature made this year in the state Department of Corrections budget.
Commission chairman Mike Gaughan said there are several county positions that depend on state or federal grant funding that might lose funding next year.
To buttress against the possibility that some, or all, of those positions might not be funded next year, he said the county's 2014 budget includes about $130,000 in a contingency fund controlled by commissioners which can be used to continue funding some of those positions if needed.
"We didn't want to double-fund any of those if state and federal money comes through," Gaughan said. "We came up with what will hopefully be a reasonable solution in putting together a pool of funds so we can look at those and take them on a case-by-case basis. We completely understand the importance of those programs."
Commissioner Jim Flory, meanwhile, said he was frustrated by the situation.
"I continue to be troubled by the fact that the county is being asked to supplement funding for what is clearly a state program," Flory said, referring to Community Corrections. "I'm troubled by the trend. If it's going to be a local program, that's one thing. But if it's a state program, then it needs to be a state program."
The budget also calls for a slight increase in the county's property tax mill levy, which will cost the owner of a $200,000 home $31.62 in additional taxes next year.