EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of stories on the League of Women Voters of Great Bend Public Forum Tuesday night at the Crest Theater in Great Bend. This part covers the Barton County Commission District 2 race.
Candidates for Barton County Commission, county offices, Kansas House of Representatives and Kansas State Senate met Tuesday inside the Crest Theater for the League of Women Voters of Great Bend Public Forum. Those who are unopposed got to introduce themselves, and those facing opponents in the primary and/or general election were asked respond to questions such as, “Would you fight the bill that allows the state to control whether local governments can raise taxes?” or “Do you support the gun laws passed in the last few years?”
There were several different questions, and the candidates did not see them in advance. The questions were drawn from a bowl.
Barton County Commission
In the three-way race for Barton County Commission, 2nd district, the candidates, all Republicans, are incumbent Homer Kruckenberg, Hannelore Kitts and Sharon Wondra. Each answered two questions. Here are their best answers:
Q. For Kitts: Since school board members and city council members are not paid, why should county commissioners be paid and receive benefits?
A. “I thought this was a voluntary position, just like the other boards that I’m on. But this is regulated by statute or law, that’s the reason that county commissioners get paid. Should they get paid? I’m sure that Mr. Kruckenberg would say they should get paid.” Commissioners spend a lot of time working for the county, “and therefore they should get paid.”
Q. For Kruckenberg: “Would you fight the bill that allows the state to control whether local governments can raise taxes?”
A. “I think the state has a little bit too much control over everything,” That being said, Kruckenberg said he wasn’t happy that the county raised the local property taxes by 6 mills last year. “We could have gotten by with less.”
Q: For Wondra: The county now has to send county property taxes to the state rather than directly to the school districts. This gives the appearance that the state has increased funding to schools, when in fact it has not. What is your opinion of this?
A: “If we have the property taxes, our county property taxes, I do believe that needs to go to the schools. I do believe that we need the taxes to stay here and help our schools – to help our children.”
Candidates were given the final word.
Wondra: “People are talking about the property tax raise. I believe Barton County needs to put more businesses in (to raise tax money).” Wondra is a life-long local resident who works for the Barton County Sheriff’s Office. As she prepares to retire, she will be able to donate much of her time.
Kitts: “I agree with Sharon; I think it’s a general opinion, the more businesses we can attract the better, so we don’t have to raise property taxes.” Kitts said she feels she is a fair person, who learned to listen to people in her years as a district judge. A Kansan by choice, now that she is retired it is time to contribute to the community in a new way. “I miss the challenge.”
Kruckeberg: “I pride myself that Barton County is debt-free.” He has served on the commission for eight years and in that time, “we kept a check on wild spending. I don’t think we pay our county attorney enough, and we should help the sheriff with his (need for more) deputies.”