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Archive for Wednesday, May 8, 2013

State funding cuts will affect county budget in 2014

May 8, 2013

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The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department is asking Douglas County for an additional $20,470 next year to help absorb the cost of tests for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, which the state of Kansas will no longer fund.

That's just one example of the kind of requests Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug said he has been hearing repeatedly as the county begins the initial phases of crafting its own budget for 2014.

"The state is questioning everything they do, every service they provide, and in a lot of cases they're changing the nature of how it's done," Weinaug said.

Weinaug has spent most of the last week and a half in budget meetings with outside agencies that receive county funding. Soon, he will start meeting with the heads of the county's own standing departments to hear their budget requests.

The process culminates in late August when the county and other local governments — cities, school districts and townships — must adopt their budgets for the upcoming year.

According to the health department, on Jan. 1 the Kansas Department of Health and Environment stopped performing lab processing for HIV tests from most counties in Kansas, including Douglas County . Those tests had been free for people classified as high risk, which included the vast majority of the 1,000 or so tests that the local department orders each year.

Now, health department spokeswoman Karrey Britt said, the local agency is contracting with Lawrence Memorial Hospital, which charges the health department $9 per test.

Furthermore, the department expects to absorb even more costs starting Jan. 1, 2014, when KDHE stops performing tests for gonorrhea and chlamydia, two other sexually transmitted diseases.

Britt said the health department will also seek additional funds for next year from the city of Lawrence, which jointly funds the agency. But local elected officials will have to decide whether they are willing, or able, to absorb the cost of programs that the state of Kansas is no longer funding.

That could be especially hard in a year when the county and other local governments are expecting to see a decrease in the property tax base.

"It's ... like $50,000 here and $10,000 there, but it adds up in a budget where the revenue available at the same mill levy is less than it was before," Weinaug said. "A lot of them aren't specific mandates, there's no state law saying you have to do this but it may be so intrinsic to our mission as a local government that county commissioners make the decision to take that over."

Although the final valuation numbers won't be known for several months, Weinaug said Douglas County is anticipating a decline of 1.5 to 2 percent in value this year. He said would translate to a loss of about $1.6 million out of roughly a $60 million annual budget.

All three county commissioners said this week that it's still too early to rule the possibility of a mill levy increase in or out.

"I don't think we know enough yet to say whether a tax increase is off the table," Commissioner Nancy Thellman, a Democrat, said. "I think we wish we could say that. We just don't have the numbers in front of us."

Republican Commissioner Jim Flory agreed, saying, "If there are programs that no longer have state funding, I think we have to look at those. We have to reassess every program we have. Obviously I would look at any increase in the mill levy as a last resort."

But Commission Chairman Mike Gaughan, a Democrat, predicted county officials will feel pressure to continue funding services the public has come to expect, including public health services like HIV testing.

"That's the kind of thing that our community and our citizens are counting on," Gaughan said. "If the state's not going to do it, it's just another example of the state passing on something to local government that we have to pick up."

Comments

wastewatcher 1 year, 6 months ago

Democrat Gaughan whines like most LIBERAL DEMS. It is only fair that if the citizens of Douglas County want services, they should pay for them. With all of the money that the state pumps into Douglas County, I believe the folks in Douglas County should be very thankful and quit whining!!!! Douglas county gets a lot more from the state than they put in.

Bob_Keeshan 1 year, 6 months ago

This cut at the state level will mean extra costs and higher property taxes for all counties, not just Douglas.

The most conservative counties in the state will be raising property taxes to make up for cuts at the state level. You know which counties I'm talking about -- the ones getting 50% more government funding support than they pay in taxes, all of the loyal to the GOP and very "conservative".

Conz24 1 year, 6 months ago

Or maybe they could stop spending other peoples money.

Patricia Davis 1 year, 6 months ago

Time to reduce expectations of what is free.

kansasredlegs 1 year, 6 months ago

There is approximately 35 years worth of testing if Gaughan rescinds the idiotic waste of taxpayer money Mr. Gaughan supported with his Heritage Fund vote. It's about choices, not just adding to the mil levy.

question4u 1 year, 6 months ago

Insurance companies know very well that preventing disease is much cheaper than treating it. That's why most plans cover an annual physical exam. Insurance companies are in business to make profits. If it didn't save them money in the long run, why would they absorb the cost of those exams?

Paying for a test to prevent the spread of HIV is a no brainer, even if you have no humanity in your personality and look at it as coldly and logically as possible. If you think that the federal government shouldn't require anyone to have insurance, then you have to expect to have uninsured people who contract HIV and spread HIV to others if they aren't screened. What's going to happen to those people? If you're like a lot of Kansans, your answer might be "let them die." The reality is that whether you like it or not, your taxes will pay for their treatment.

Is it better to pay for a test or pay for the long-term treatment of multiple infected patients on public assistance? Apparently there are actually people who think that the latter is preferable, just so long as some teenager doesn't get an HIV test for free.

The teeth of some of these commenters must be atrocious. The idea that you'll save money by not paying for an ounce of prevention is ludicrous.

verity 1 year, 6 months ago

It's not about good sense, it's about perceived morality.

And short term savings, of course.

Catalano 1 year, 6 months ago

Of course. If everyone waited until they got married to have sex, there wouldn't be any STDs. Yeah, that abstinence-only thing is working out real well.

Conz24 1 year, 6 months ago

We should not be paying either way. I made my choices and live with the consequences and I want you to have that same freedom. I dont want to pay for some elses choice whether to prevent or to correct. They are the owners of that. If they need help, they should go door-to-door and ask for it or have a non-profit do it for them. The government should not steal my money to pay for things I do not want, it is my money let me keep it.

verity 1 year, 6 months ago

I want the freedom to not have to pay for anything I don't want or believe in either. Wars, welfare to the wealthy, highways and bridges that I will never drive on, education since I won't be using it anymore and have no children, most Kansas legislators and the governor. I certainly don't want to live with the choices the legislature and governor are making. They are the owners of that.

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