Douglas County Commission approves $1.85 million of 2020 year-end budget transfers

photo by: Meeting screenshot/Douglas County Commission

Douglas County Administrator Sarah Plinsky explains 2020 year-end budget transfers worth $1.85 million to the County Commission on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021.

The Douglas County Commission took its final action on the 2020 budget during its meeting on Wednesday by approving about $1.85 million of year-end transfers.

The year-end transfers are a standard budgeting process for the county, moving revenue dollars in the county’s general fund — its largest and broadest fund — to other funds with more specific purposes like equipment and project reserve accounts.

The largest of the year-end transfers included moving $960,000 to the county’s emergency communications radio equipment reserve.

County Administrator Sarah Plinsky told the commissioners moving the funds to equipment reserves is a standard practice for the county and allows it to plan for future upgrades that will be needed. She said the county is currently working on a plan to upgrade the emergency communication radios in the county and will likely be something that will be brought back to the commissioners in the next few months.

Other transfers included moving $150,000 to the county’s courtroom equipment reserve and $330,000 to the county’s worker’s compensation fund, among others.

“I really appreciate the focus on some of those equipment reserves because we know that a lot of the equipment we use in local government are big ticket items, and we need to replace them,” Commission Chair Shannon Portillo said. “It’s a really responsible way to move forward with the budget.”

Plinsky noted the year-end transfers were possible because the county received more revenue in 2020 than it originally expected.

The county originally expected to receive $7.2 million in sales tax revenue. But after the coronavirus pandemic emerged, the county re-estimated the revenue down to $7 million. However, despite the pandemic, sales tax revenue came in higher than expected. According to the data provided to the commissioners Wednesday, the county collected a little more than $7.4 million in sales tax revenue.

“In spite of a global pandemic, Douglas County ended the year in pretty sound financial position,” Plinsky said.

Commissioner Patrick Kelly noted when the commissioners built the 2021 budget last summer they left out a standard wage increase to county staff in case of the possible revenue decline. However, because the county did not see that decline, he asked if the county planned to provide staff with that wage increase.

Plinsky said she told the commissioners during the budgeting process that she would bring that topic back up if the county finished in a strong financial position. She said she expects to bring a proposal for the commissioners to consider in the near future.

In other business, the commissioners heard a report from County Appraiser Steven Miles on the county’s work updating property values in the county for 2021. In a memo to the commissioners, he said the county saw an overall increase in property value by 4%, despite the pandemic.


Douglas County Commission to discuss county property values, which grew 4% in 2021

“All in all, we’re not doing as bad as some people might have thought we would based on the pandemic,” Miles said during the meeting.

Miles noted his office will soon begin the appeals process. He said he expects property owners will argue their home values should be changed because of issues caused by the pandemic. But his office is bound by state law in how the values are established, he said.

“Unfortunately, we are governed by the statutes of the state of Kansas and many times my hands are tied in how compassionate I can be,” Miles said.

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