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Many issues on horizon for counties
Commission preps for annual KAC conference
KAC logo

When it came to approving the Kansas Association of Counties policy statement for the upcoming legislative session, it was a matter of looking after the county’s best interest, Barton County Commissioners said Monday morning. The KAC’s annual conference take place Nov. 12-14 at the at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and the Century II Convention Center in Wichita, and Barton County sends delegates to this meeting

“The county belongs to the Kansas Association of Counties and this is basically a legislative group that helps counties support items that might come up each year,” County Administrator Phil Hathcock said. To this end, he asked commissioners to preview the KAC’s legislative priorities for the 2020 session.

“The KAC sends out a legislative policy statement for all of the commissioners to review and approve,” he said. This will be a top item for discussion at the convention.

This document will then be utilized during the legislative session to promote issues related to county government, he said. The commission reviews and considers the platform and other initiatives that may have local interest annually. 

The overall six-page policy statement includes several sections. In addition to legislative priorities, it covers county governance, taxation and finance, transportation and land use, public safety, public health and environment  and federal regulations. 

The 2019 legislative priorities include:

1. Constitutional Home Rule – KAC favors enacting constitutional home rule for counties — a change that will enable county leaders to best serve their constituents.

2. Property Tax Lid – KAC supports complete repeal of the tax lid. In the absence of repeal, KAC supports correcting the unworkable procedures in the tax lid to ensure a practical law for local officials.

3. Tax Valuation and Appeals – KAC supports a fair and consistent approach to valuation, and KAC supports taxation that reflects the services furnished and funded by counties and takes into consideration economic realities and true market value. The KAC favors procedural changes to the tax appeals process that are balanced and sensible for both the taxpayer and the counties. We oppose any legislation that artificially limits or otherwise alters property valuation and strongly support a legislative change adding language to current state law to clearly indicate that fair market value does not include a hypothetical lease fee.

4. Medicaid Expansion – KAC supports expansion of the Kansas Medicaid program to extend healthcare coverage for at-risk Kansans and supports the pursuit of public health. 5. Mental 5. 5. Health and Jails – KAC supports limiting incarceration of the mentally ill in county jails. Furthermore, we support greater effort for accessible treatment to address mental illness and substance-use disorders.

6. State Funding – KAC opposes deferring payments to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System and sweeping funds intended for transportation. Kansas needs a structured and balanced state budget. Our counties also support the Federal Funds Exchange Program and other partnership efforts between Kansas and its counties.

7. Broadband Access – KAC supports policies enabling broadband development (high-speed internet) and access to improve economic development, telemedicine care, and government efficiency.

8. Federal Taxes – KAC supports restoring the federal tax deduction for state and local taxes (SALT) and preserving the tax exemption for municipal bonds. 

While KAC represents the majority of the counties from all across the state, Barton County also belongs to the Kansas Legislative Policy Group which focuses mostly on western Kansas. “When I went to KLPG a couple of weeks ago, they, too, have their list of things,” said commission Chairwoman Jennifer Schartz, who also sits on the KLPG board.

“I think sometimes (with KAC) we get lumped into eastern Kansas,” she said. So, it is important for Barton County to also look at the legislative priorities of the KLPG which may align more with rural, western issues.

Barton County Commission meeting at a glance

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

• Heard a report on the annual county tax sale that took place last Tuesday. At the time of the sale, 27 parcels remained, and the county sold each of these tracts and collected $16,733 in back taxes, County Treasurer Jim Jordan said.

“It takes a big team,” he said. In addition to Treasurer’s Office staff, the effort included County Counselor Patrick Hoffman and commission Administrative Secretary Diana Watson.

Although costly, commissioners said they liked the idea of holding a sale yearly, which is not the norm. “It keeps people on their toes,” commission Chairwoman Jennifer Schartz said.

• Approved the renewal of an annual contract for a voice logger for the Communications Department and the County Attorney’s Office. The logger, which comes from Voice Works of Wichita, is used to create audio recordings from telephones, radios, microphones and other sources.  

The contract runs from Dec. 1 through Nov. 31, 2020. The cost is $8,344, with 911 covering $6,832 and the County Attorney’s Office covering $1,512.

• Discussed the Kansas Association of Counties legislative policy statement for the KAC conference Nov. 12-14 in Wichita.