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County holds line on budget
Spending packages stays under revenue neutral rate
2023 county budget hearing
The Barton County Commission Wednesday morning discusses the county’s 2023 operating budget before approving it. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Barton County Commission meeting at a glance

Here is a quick look at what the Barton County Commission did Wednesday morning:

• Held both a Revenue Neutral Rate hearing for the 2023 operating budget, and the annual budget hearing. After which, the commission approved the budget as presented.

The proposed 2023 Barton County Operating Budget is funded at a mill levy of 41.381. The Revenue Neutral Rate for Barton County is calculated at 41.419 mills.

• Adopted the 2023 authorized position listing.

The listing includes all County positions, including Central Kansas Community Corrections and 20th Judicial District Juvenile Services, as both fall under the umbrella of County operations.  

• Approved the capital improvement and equipment replacement plans.  

Through the budgeting process, Barton County transfers cash, as savings, to both the capital improvement and the equipment replacement plans. These five-year plans, revised annually, allow the county to plan for projected long-term expenditures.   

• Approved the Southwest Developmental Services Inc. service agreement.

SDSI is the Community Developmental Disability Organization for the county. Under the 2023 service agreement, SDSI will provide all services required by Kansas statutes for a total of $70,000.  

The county has worked with SDSI since 2004.

• Accepted the 2021 audit report.

Melissa Ille, senior manager, AdamsBrown, presented the 2021 report. The report covered the financial condition of Barton County from Jan. 1, 2021, through Dec. 31, 2021. 

According to Ille, the audit received an “unmodifed” or “clean” opinion.

• Approved the Central Kansas Community Corrections fiscal year 2023 carry-over budget.

The Kansas Department of Corrections requires a budget submission of local program funding collected by Community Corrections agencies from program fees and reimbursements, said CKCC Director Amy Boxberger.  These budgets require the review and approval of the Barton County Commissioners, as the Administrative County for the 20th Judicial District. 

The total was $51,985.01.

• Approved the 20th Judicial District Juvenile Services fiscal year 2023 carry-over budget.

This includes $64,347.61 from Core programming and $16,894.00 from Immediate Intervention for a total of $81,241.61, said Director Marissa Woodmansee. Funds from the Core Programming will be used to fund contractual services (on-call/transporters), training for additional Evidence Based curriculum, supplies, and equipment to include required computer upgrades and vehicle replacement. 

Per the Kansas Department of Corrections, Immediate Intervention funds can only be used for evidence-based curriculum, incentives, or referrals to outside services for youth. 

• Approved Northern Natural Gas pipeline agreements.

NNG owns two large natural gas transmission lines that cross the county sandpit south of Ellinwood, said County Counselor Patrick Hoffman.  NNG has a blanket easement covering the entire 54-acre parcel.  

They have agreed in principle to reduce their easement to a strip of land that parallels the pipelines as well as approve an encroachment agreement that defines where the county will be allowed to cross their lines. 

The commission was asked to approve both documents.

After vowing all along to hold the line on the 2023 budget, the Barton County Commission Wednesday morning approved a package that keeps the spending authority and mill levy in check.

The approval followed a Revenue Neutral Rate hearing spurred by the controversial 2021 Kansas Senate Bill 13, the so-called Truth in Taxation Bill, and the regular annual budget hearing.

The budget is funding in part by a mill levy of 41.381 for the countywide assessed valuation of $290,553,811 which generates a total of $12,023,521 in ad valorem tax dollars, Operations Director Matt Patzner said. When comparing the mill levy to 2022, the estimated mill levy is a reduction of 2.899 mills and under revenue neutral rate of 41.419.

The total spending authority comes to $24,524,116.

“This budget is the organizational blueprint to maintain delivery of quality public services at an affordable cost to the taxpayer,” Patzner said. “The main goals that have led the Commission to this proposed budget were to remain revenue neutral; maintain quality public services in a way that is sustainable for years to come; invest in our employees who deliver these quality services; and contribute to expanding the tax base of Barton County and enrich the quality of life of our citizens."

SB 13 established notice and public hearing requirements if a taxing entity’s proposed budget will exceed the property tax levy’s Revenue Neutral Rate (generally, the RNR is the tax rate in mills that would generate the same property tax revenue in dollars as levied the previous tax year using the current tax year’s total assessed valuation).

“This was made possible with careful planning and the foresight to begin 2022 with a higher level of cash carryforward than the year before to deal with project costs, inflation, and ever-increasing commodity prices while still making a healthy transfer into reserves for the future,” Patzner said. “As future budget years present themselves, they will bring with them unique challenges. I believe that with adequate cash reserves, zero debt, and careful planning The County can address these challenges in a sustainable way as they come forward.”

Budget breakdown

Every budget year is unique and presents its own challenges, he said. “This year was no different as the Commissioners had to find a way to accomplish all of these goals with unprecedented inflation affecting many aspects of how Barton County operates.”

In all, is up $1,594,690 from 2022 due to increased in personnel costs, increases to commodities due to inflation and anticipated costs of the courthouse heating and air conditioning project. 

It also factors in raises for all county employees, with the amount depending on their current salary. All full-time Barton County employees will make at least $15 per hour starting in 2023.

“Ad Valorem (property) tax makes up just over half (53%) of the total revenue required for the County to have a balanced budget,” Patzner said. “As with all budgets, the goal is to maintain quality public services while trying to keep this Ad Valorem Tax number as small as possible to be good stewards of the taxpayer’s money.”

The next biggest slice of the pie is cash carried forward. That comes to 18%.

Of those expenditures, Patzner said public safety and public works each account for 28%, he said. Between these and public health, that covers 63% of the budget.

Also, “depending on where you live, only 20-26% of your tax dollars support county government,” he said.