Douglas County’s proposed 2019 budget maintains current mill levy, provides $3M for criminal justice needs
photo by: Journal-World Graphic
Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug has presented county commissioners with a proposed 2019 budget that maintains the current year’s 46.018 mill levy and identifies $3.12 million from spending cuts or reallocations to be used for criminal justice needs, including addressing overcrowding at the county jail.
The $3.12 million plan doesn’t call for significant cuts to social service agency funding, but rather would involve significant reductions in the amount of money the county sets aside for building and road improvements. However, some alternative recommendations Weinaug provided, which total more than the $3.12 million, would require cuts to some community partners.
The County Commission will start budget hearings from 8 a.m. to noon Monday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St.
Of the $3.12 million in revenue Weinaug proposes be made available for criminal justice needs, $2.35 million will come from cuts to the county’s facilities and Douglas County Public Works road and bridge capital improvement accounts. The proposed 2019 budget would cut by half funding to both capital accounts, providing $750,000 for the facilities capital fund and $1.4 million of the road and bridges capital funds. Rather than use bonding, the county builds capital funds through annual allocations to pay for improvements to county facilities and road and bridge projects.
2019 proposed county budget at a glance
• Recommended mill levy, 46.018 mills
• Taxes to be paid on a $175,000 home at 46.018 mills: $926
• County revenue per 1 mill of taxation: $1.9 million
• Total of proposed 2019 county expenditures: $100.3 million
• A 5.3 percent increase in the county’s property tax base from last year’s levels
Weinaug said he expected commissioners to take a hard look at the proposed public works road and bridge capital funding reduction.
“I anticipate with the public works discussion there will be conversations of ‘With that much of a cut, this is what future capital improvement projects will look like,'” he said. “If they are uncomfortable with that, commissioners could decrease the cut and do more in the way of projects. I anticipate that discussion will be longer than the others because it is the single biggest item in terms of dollars.”
The criminal justice needs to be funded through the cuts and reallocations are not defined in the budget because specific proposals have not yet been developed since voters last month rejected Proposition 1 and the $44 million jail expansion it would have funded, Weinaug said. The freed-up money is meant to give commissioners flexibility in crafting solutions involving capital upgrades and operational costs needed to relieve jail overcrowding, as well as additional programing to reduce the jail’s inmate population, he said.
“Those are decisions the County Commission still needs to face, so it isn’t defined,” he said. “We have said the issues that led to the May election still need to be addressed. Commissioners are still in a listening mode about how best to address those needs. I am quite sure they will be addressed in a much different fashion than what was proposed in May, which voters rejected, but commissioners are going to take some time and talk about those things.”
In addition to the $3.12 million in recommended spending cuts and reallocations proposed, the budget lists another 21 options for commissioners’ consideration that would provide $1.25 million for future criminal justice needs if all were adopted.
Those options include cuts to county departments and community partners, as well as fee increases for such things as planning and zoning permits, fairgrounds rentals and fees charged at the Treasurer’s Office satellite sites. Among the optional cuts to community partners are $50,000 for Cottonwood, $10,000 to the Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging, $2,000 to the Douglas County Fair Board, $28,000 to the Douglas County Visiting Nurses Association, $15,000 to the Humane Society and $50,000 to the Senior Resource Center for Douglas County. Hearings on those budget options will be from 8 to 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Another option available to commissioners is to raise property taxes. Assistant County Administrator Sarah Plinsky said the county could collect $1.1 million more in property taxes than what is proposed in the 2019 budget and still be in compliance with the state’s tax lid. The state’s tax law limits local governments from increasing property tax beyond the rate of inflation and revenue from new development.
The proposed budget preserves and enhances the $1.5 million in behavioral health programming introduced with the 2018 budget and the alternative to incarceration reforms put in place the last two years. Among the new funding proposals for those programs are:
• An addition of a full-time position and expansion of two half-time positions to full-time status in Douglas County Criminal Justice Services. The staff will work with those in the pretrial release and house arrest programs and behavioral health court defendants.
• Start a $183,000 DCCCA substance abuse counseling program in the county jail.
• An allocation of $75,000 to provide outside the county substance abuse treatment for uninsured residents in partnership with DCCCA.
In addition, the proposed budget would provide half of the $175,000 needed to hire a consultant to study the causes of the disproportionate representation of people of color arrested in Douglas County. The cities of Lawrence, Baldwin City, Eudora and the University of Kansas would be asked to provide the remaining funding.
Weinaug said he did not expect a final decision on the 2019 to be made until at least the second week in July. There will be no commission meeting on Wednesday, July 4, because of the holiday.
County budget hearings schedule
Times are tentative and will change depending on the length of preceding hearings.
• 8 to 9 a.m. — Proposed budget overview of suggested county departmental changes and those commissioners could consider
• 9 to 9:45 a.m. — Douglas County Public Works budget
• 9:45 to 10:05 a.m. — Review of Douglas County District Court and District Court Citizen Review Board budgets
• 10:05 to 10:50 a.m. — Economic Development incentives and optional cuts
• 10:50 to 11:05 a.m. — Emergency Management budget review
• 11:05 a.m. to noon — Heritage Conservation grant and county historical societies, budgets and optional cuts
Tuesday: Community partner budgets and optional cuts
• 8 to 8:15 a.m. — Cottonwood Inc.
• 8:15 to 8:35 a.m. — Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging
• 8:35 to 8:50 a.m. — Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department
• 8:50 to 9:05 a.m. — Douglas County Fairboard
• 9:05 to 9:25 a.m. — Douglas County Visiting Nurses Association
• 9:25 to 9:45 a.m. — Humane Society
• 9:45 to 10 a.m. — Senior Resource Center
• 10 a.m. to noon — Discussion of new allocations in the budget; $200,000 Peaslee Tech mortgage principal payment recommended; and unfunded drug court
8 a.m. to noon: Consideration and discussion of requests; other items requested by commissioners or loose ends from other hearings
• 8 to 8:30 a.m. — Register of Deeds $50,000 request for office furniture
• 8:30 to 8:45 a.m. — Douglas County Conservation District $20,000 request to continue local cost-share program
• 8:45 to 9 am. — $61,000 request from Positive Bright Starts.