The Douglas County Commission will resume considerations of the county’s 2018 budget at its regular meeting Wednesday, and the public may get a clearer picture of how much the county's property tax rate may increase.
Commissioners wrapped up three days of 2018 budget hearings June 28 without approving a budget for publication but agreed they would not exceed the tax lid, which limits the county from increasing the mill levy supporting non-exempt spending to 1.761 mills. If commissioners wanted to exceed the tax lid they would have had to get approval for a tax increase through a countywide election.
But there is still a possibility the county may approve a tax increase greater than the 1.761 mills previously discussed. The state tax lid law allows for tax increases that aren't subject to voter approval, if they are for items such as public safety. Commissioners did agree to add a number of new spending measures exempt from the tax lid, including $211,113 for the hiring of three new sheriff deputy positions.
How much those new positions, and other similar proposals, may add to the property tax increase may become clearer on Wednesday.
Commission Chair Mike Gaughan proposed a compromise at the June 28 meeting in which he and Commissioner Nancy Thellman would support the hiring of the three deputies in return for Commissioner Michelle Derusseau’s support for $397,000 in funding to start creating a multi-agency support team for those with severe mental illness. That is part of $1.98 million in behavioral health initiative proposed for the budget. The team is meant to provide continuing services to those released from the Lawrence Memorial Hospital behavioral health stabilization unit.
Derusseau said Thursday she still had reservations about funding the proposed support team at $397,000, noting that Bob Tryanski, county director of behavioral health projects, said some of the details of the multi-agency team were not in place. She would like to see the team started on a smaller scale, Derusseau said.
Commissioners will also learn the consequences of County Administrator Craig Weinaug’s conversation Thursday with Lawrence City Manager Tom Markus regarding city funding decisions on a number of past city-county collaborative programs.
The $92.69 million 2018 budget Weinaug presented commissioners last month proposed raising the current year 44.092 mill levy to 45.853 mills.
In other business:
The County Commission will also consider a site plan for the conversion of a house at 1924 East 1600 Road into an annex of the Prairie Moon Waldorf School. The request comes to commissioners with the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission’s recommendation of approval.
The Douglas County Commission meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. A complete agenda can be viewed at douglascountyks.org.
Contact Douglas County reporter Elvyn JonesHave a tip or story idea?