Proposed ‘status quo’ budget would leave Douglas County mill levy flat
photo by: Mackenzie Clark
Story updated at 3:07 p.m. Monday, July 1:
The interim Douglas County administrator has proposed a budget that maintains the current mill levy — however, Sarah Plinsky said, she “would call it a ‘status quo’ or ‘inflationary increases only’ budget.”
Any new programs or substantial expansions would have to come at the discretion of Douglas County commissioners.
Plinsky said her proposed budget fulfills three priorities that she’d set: to account for increasing health insurance costs, to offer market and merit raises for county staff and to maintain the fund balance percentage — basically the county’s savings account — at 3.3%.
“It’s a particularly tight labor market right now, so I wanted to make sure I could afford those (raises),” Plinsky said.
Plinsky said that leaving the supplemental requests out of her proposed budget does not mean she doesn’t support them.
“The commissioners can decide how they want to expand services,” Plinsky said. “I wouldn’t have put it (a project I support) in my proposed budget because of that stance.”
The current mill levy of 46.015 means that the owner of a $200,000 home pays about $1,058 annually in property taxes to Douglas County.
Based on numbers from June 1, the total assessed valuation of county properties has increased 5.24%. That means the county will have the extra revenue it needs for increased costs within the same mill levy.
If the commission were to approve all supplemental requests, they would add 1.824 mills, for a total of 47.839 mills. Under that rate, the owner of a $200,000 home would pay the county about $1,100 in property taxes — an increase of about $42.
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Here are some of the supplemental budget requests the commission will consider, along with the total amount requested, mill levy impact and approximate annual cost to the owner of a $200,000 home.
• Drug court diversion program: $420,000. This is a proposed initiative to provide a phased program for adults who are arrested for nonviolent drug crimes. As an alternative to incarceration, it would aim to provide supportive services while holding offenders accountable to the court, as the Journal-World has reported. (That’s 0.296 mills, or about $6.80 per year to the owner of a $200,000 home.)
• Sheriff’s office personnel: $397,434. Once the Lawrence Police Department moves into its new headquarters, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office will need additional personnel, including an evidence technician and a records clerk. The sheriff has also requested three additional full-time deputies. (Altogether, .281 mills; $6.46.)
• Lawrence Community Shelter: $181,000. The shelter is requesting supplemental funds on top of its regular budget request of $115,000. As the Journal-World has reported, the shelter has been struggling with financial issues for the past few years. At their June 12 meeting, commissioners approved the shelter’s request for an extra $148,000 for 2019. (Supplemental request: 0.128 mills; $2.94. Shelter total: roughly .209 mills; $4.81.)
• Analyst related to behavioral health: $75,035. The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department wants to add an analyst who would track, analyze and compile data and metrics related to behavioral health, substance use, health equity, programming and more. (0.053 mills; $1.22.)
• Heritage Conservation Council: $115,000. The HCC is requesting the county restore money that was cut from its budget last year. (.081 mills; $1.86.)
• Mobile Integrated Health: $114,634. For this proposal, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical would pair up with LMH Health to connect with and support patients in all parts of the community. (.081 mills; $1.86.)
Plinsky said she did include one supplemental request — from Dwayne Peaslee Technical Training Center, for $200,000 toward its mortgage principal — based on precedent. The commission approved the same amount for the 2018 and 2019 budget cycles.
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The Douglas County Commission’s 4 p.m. Wednesday work session will focus on the budget. The commission does not take action during work sessions.
At their 5:30 p.m. regular meeting, commissioners will consider final contracts with LMH Health for project management of the Crisis Center on the Douglas County Recovery Campus, and with CXNS Health Strategies for consultation and technical assistance on behavioral health projects.
As of Monday, Plinsky was still finalizing the schedule for all budget hearings, but those are anticipated to be held Monday through Thursday mornings next week, June 24-27. Commissioners will return for budget deliberations on Monday, Wednesday and Monday, July 1, 3 and 8, after which Plinsky said she would anticipate they will arrive at a recommended budget.
The commission will meet for its 4 p.m. work session and 5:30 p.m. regular meeting Wednesday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. Full agenda materials are available at douglascountyks.org.
— Editor’s note: This article has been updated from a previous version.
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