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County Commission adopts 2018 budget
County mill levy holds, valuation increases
new deh more couinty commission budget hearing pic web
Members of the Barton County Commissioners listen to a presentation on the countys 2018 operating budget. The commission adopted the budget following a public hearing. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

In other budget related matters, the commission:
• Approved a resolution expressing the property taxation policy of the commission, with respect to financing the 2018 annual budget. The resolution details the costs of providing services, said Finance Officer Matt Patzner.
This is required under the tax lid statute, Patzner said. Even though the mill levy stated the same, that levy will bring in more money and this is what required action.
• Approved the listing of authorized positions for the county. The listing includes all county positions, including Central Kansas Community Corrections and 20th Judicial District Juvenile Services, since both fall under the umbrella of county operations.
• Approved the Capital Improvement Plan. Through the budgeting process, Barton County plans for cash transfers, as savings, to the capital improvement plan. This plan, as revised each year, allows for the projected maintenance and remodeling of county buildings and major modifications to roads and bridges, Hathcock said.
• Approved the equipment replacement plan. Barton County plans for cash transfers, as savings, to the equipment replacement plan. The plan is developed and revised each year for the purpose of ensuring that equipment costs is kept at a manageable level, Hathcock said.

 The overriding challenge in any governmental budget year is providing quality services that are affordable to the taxpayers, Barton County Operations Director Phil Hathcock said as he presented the 2018 operating budget to the County Commission Monday morning.

“This year, the commissioners once again worked hard to meet that challenge for their constituents,” he said. His comments came during a public budget hearing prior to the commission’s regular meeting.

Following the hearing, commissioners adopted the spending package, which held the mill levy at 43.567, the same as in 2017. This funds $11,228,064 of a $20,559,946 budget, with the balance coming from carry overs, fees, state and federal aid, and other sources.

The budgets in 2015 through 2017 were all similar due to valuation decline and a lost revenue for the county, Hathcock said during his presentation. “Finally, the 2018 budget includes a total increase in valuation of $15 million.”

Since a mill equals $1 in taxation for every $1,000 in valuation, each mill for the county equaled $257,723. 

The commission was able to hold the mill rate steady without having to tap reserves due in part to the elimination of the Barton Count Extension Council funding. The council joined with Ellis County to form the Cottonwood Extension Council and is a separate taxing entity now.

The 2018 budget also includes raises for law enforcement and 911 personnel with a 4 percent or minimum 50 cent raise for other county employees at a total cost of $335,670. It also included a $110,000 increase for employer portion of health insurance premiums, $40,000 for anticipated election costs, $10,000 for county road signage and $67,000 for a new staff position and other expenses in the County Attorney’s Office.

However, “there were requests to increase expenditures that were not funded,” Hathcock said. All other county departments and outside agencies that receive county support were held at 2017 levels.

Looking at the county’s expenditures, Hathcock said engineering/county works and criminal justice/emergency response account for 59 percent of the budget. The next biggest slices of the pie go employee benefits at 15 percent and public health at 10 percent.

“The county presently has adequate case reserves in the capital improvement and equipment replacement accounts,” Hathcock said. “By not depleting the reserves, the county remains fiscally sound and is in the position to sustain a constant mill levy while providing quality services.”

“This is a good budget this year considering the circumstances,” Commissioner Alicia Straub said. It would have been nice to use the higher valuation to lower the mill levy, but the state-imposed tax lid prohibited that.

Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Schartz said the county has been “forward thinking” with this budget. “We are doing what’s in the best interest, long term, of the county.”