No commission meeting next week
The Barton County Commission will not meet next Monday morning, Aug. 12,due to its viewing of a road in far northeastern Barton County that may be vacated. The next meeting will be at 9 a.m. Monday, Aug. 19, at the Barton County Courthouse, 1400 Main in Great Bend.
The public viewing in response to a request to vacate a portion of NE 210 Road in Cleveland Township at 10:30 a.m. that morning. The commission will meet at the intersection of NE 210 Road and NE 140 Avenue with interested parties.
The roadway is described as NE 210 Road from NE 140 Avenue east for one-half mile. It is anticipated that the commission will consider vacating the road when it meets on Aug. 19.
The Barton County 2020 budget is funded by a slightly lower mill levy than last year, due in largely to the expiration of the Overland Pass Pipeline 10-year tax exemption which increased the county’s valuation, Barton County Administrator Phil Hathcock told the County Commission Monday morning. His remarks came during the public budget hearing prior to the commissioners’ adoption of the spending package.
“This budget, as presented, represents an effort to maintain delivery of quality public services at an affordable cost to the taxpayer while maintaining a close to constant mill levy,” he said. “Each year, the commissioners are faced with many increasing budget requests as well as increasing uncontrolled costs which present challenges as they work to balance the budget.”
The 2020 budget includes a valuation increase of $11,578,084, largely from pipeline. This equates to an increase of budget authority of approximately $479,412.
The estimated mill levy of 43.641 which is slightly lower than the 2018 mill levy that funded the 2019 budget at 43.739.
The total mill levy generates $12,089,420 in property tax and is equivalent to $277,023 per mill. One mill is one dollar per $1,000 dollars of assessed value.
The ad valorem, or property tax, funds 59% of the county’s total $24,061,663 budget. As for the balance of the package, that comes from local sales taxes, departmental fees and transfers, cash carried forward, grants, interest and other sources.
Two thirds of these expenditures are attributed to public health, roads and bridges, and emergency response, Hathcock said.
“It’s great when you have department heads and elected officials staying as fiscally responsible as they can,” Commissioner Jim Daily said. “Revenue did go up, but it was also due diligence.”
“Specifically, the 2020 budget includes mandatory costs that the county cannot control,” he said. These include such items as an $114,000 increase in health insurance costs, $21,700 increase in the employer portion of KPERS retirement costs, $57,300 for the 2020 presidential election and a $41,700 increase in inmate housing costs relating to the detention center.
Some other costs that were included in this budget were a 3.5% raise with a minimum of $1 per hour and maximum of $1.20 per hour for county employees, a continuation of the $80,000 health insurance subsidy for employees, and the addition of a detention deputy and a clerical position for the county attorney. There was also an increase in information technology for increase server maintenance fees.
“As stated in previous years, lowering the mill levy further would cut expenditures into the foreseeable future or until the state lifts the current tax lid,” he said.
“There were several requests to increase expenditures by supported agencies that were not able to be funded,” he said. Supported agencies as well as all county departments were held at the 2019 level with the exception of the increases mentioned previously.
“Fortunately, through fiscally responsible planning, the county presently has adequate cash reserves in the capital improvement and equipment replacement accounts,” he said. “By not depleting reserves to fund the proposed budget, the county remains fiscally sound and is in the position to sustain a constant mill levy while providing quality services.”
“We have been doing more with less,” commission Chairwoman Jennifer Schartz said. “But there is a breaking point. But we haven’t gotten there yet.”
She cited working under the state-mandated tax lid, which even includes expenditures out of the county’s control like health care and Kansas Public Employment Retirement System (KPERS) costs. “We know best how to run our county.
“We’re cautious and keep the mill levy low,” she said. “We could use some help here.”
Looking to the future
“While the proposed 2020 budget included increased valuations that allowed for necessary funding of uncontrolled costs, it also allowed for a wage adjustment for better alignment with other surrounding cities and counties,” Hathcock said. “The commission and county officials have also planned for future expenditures and budget constraints such as a potential valuation decrease in 2021, increased exceptional court case costs, aging infrastructure at the courthouse, and updating the emergency services radio system.”
Other budgetary matters
Related to the budget, the commission:
• Adopted a resolution expressing the property taxation policy of the commission, with respect to financing the 2020 annual budget.
• Adopted the 2020 authorized positions listing – 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.
• Adopted the capital improvement plan. Through the budgeting process, Barton County transfers cash, as savings, to the capital improvement plan. This five-year, is revised each year by department heads, and allows for the projected maintenance and remodeling of county buildings and major modifications to roads and bridges.
It was because of this plan that the repairs were made to the courthouse without tapping into additional funding.
• Adopted the equipment replacement plan. Through the budgeting process, Barton County transfers cash, as savings, to the equipment replacement plan. The five-year plan is developed and revised each year by department heads for the purpose of ensuring that monies are available to replace equipment as necessary.
Barton County Commission meeting at a glance
Here is a quick look at what the Barton County Commission did Monday morning:
• Held the public hearing on the 2020 county operating budget. County Administrator Phil Hathcock said 2020 budget is funded by maintaining a constant mill levy, which is possible primarily due to the Overland Pass Pipeline 10-year tax exemption expiring which increased valuation.
• Adopted the 2020 operating budget.
• Adopted a resolution expressing the property taxation policy of commissioner, with respect to financing the 2020 annual budget.
• Adopted the 2020 authorized positions listing. 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.
• Adopted the capital improvement plan.
• Adopted the equipment replacement plan.
• Approved the service agreement with Southwest Developmental Services Inc. SDSI is the Community Developmental Disability Organization for the county. Under the 2020 service agreement, SDSI will provide all services required by Kansas statutes for a CDDO for a total of $70,000, Hathcock said. This is unchanged from the previous year.
• Approved the resignation of Dennis Poland Union Township treasurer and appointed Brittany Woydiziak to fill the post which terms in 2021.