Due to the continued dry conditions, the Barton County Commission Monday morning voted to extend the county-wide burn ban for at least another week. Effective at noon Monday, open trash burning, campfires, and all open fires are prohibited. This will be in force until noon, Monday, Aug. 20, at which time it may be extended.
Any questions concerning local burning, should be directed to the fire chief having jurisdiction of the area where the burning is to take place. The fire chief may or may not issue an agricultural burning permit.
Violation of this state of emergency may result in fines of up to $2,500.
Divided over the need for the first property tax increase in nearly a decade, a split Barton County Commission Monday morning approved the county’s 2013 budget.
It calls for total spending of $18,247,405 from a tax levy of 34.927 mills based on an assessed valuation of $268,256,071.
This is up 2.396 mills from 2012 when the total was $17,850,398 with a mill rate of 32.558 and a valuation of $257,270,901.
The budget also includes budget cuts and/or steady spending by county departments. In addition, there is a 2-percent, across-the-board pay raise for county employees.
The proposed levy is the highest since 2009 when the levy was 33.810.
However, “I cannot support a budget that calls for almost a million-dollar tax increase,” said commissioner John Edmonds. He referred to the money generated by the mill levy which was about $8.4 million in 2012 and is set at almost $9.4 million for 2013.
At the heart of the spending package was the need to stop the county’s on-going spending down of its reserves. The county started the 2011-2012 budget year with a reserve balance of $15,489,000, had a revenue of $20,731,000, but spent just over $24 million. This left an ending reserve balance of $12,076,000.
Edmonds maintains this could be accomplished via spending cuts. But, “this is something this commission is unwilling to do.”
“Times are a little tough,” said commission Chairman Homer Kruckeberg. “This increase is a little heavy.”
None the less, Commissioner Don Cates said the mill hike was less than some county officials had advised and more than some, including himself, wanted. “We arrived at a figure that strikes a good balance.”
The budget stems the reserve drain while continuing to provide the necessary services offered by the county, Cates said. “I continue to support the budget as proposed.”
Cates said 99 of the 105 counties in Kansas have a higher mill levy than Barton. And, the average is 63 mills.
Both Edmonds and Kruckenberg voted against the budget. Cates, and commissioners Kenny Schremmer and Jennifer Schartz voted for it.
After passing the budget, the commission also had to pass a resolution revising the county’s taxation policy to allow the commission to exceed the county’s tax lid from last year. In other words, this allows the county to increase the mill levy, setting the tax lid at the new total.
This passed by the same split margin.
In making his presentation to the commission Monday, County Administrator Richard Boeckman said the general fund, which accounts for about $6.7 million of the budget, is increasing by 1 percent, most of that from the pay raise. “Most of the departments are fairly stable.”
In that general fund is the finance general account, which covers money awarded to outside agencies such as the Barton County Historical Society, Fair Board, RSVP and the Golden Belt Humane Society. This was cut 3 percent.
Of the other funds, The road and bridge fund grew by the largest amount, up 8 percent, or $335,000 to $4,525,500. The other funds saw either modest cuts or increases.
Boeckman said the property tax makes up 49 percent of the county’s revenue, with sales tax making up 30 percent. The balance comes from other smaller taxes and fees.
The commission had four priorities when reaching a budget for 2013. These included: First, stop spending reserves; second, provide the pay increase; third, beef up the road and bridge effort and fourth, scrutinize requests for funding from outside agencies.
The county administrator praised the commissioners for their work on the budget and said they had done well to meet their goals.
In other business, the commission:
• Met as the Board of County Canvassers prior to the agenda meeting to canvas the ballots from the Aug. 7 primary election. This included counting over 100 provisional ballots.
• Approved five-year capital improvement and equipment replacement plans. Through the budgeting process, the county plans for cash transfers, as savings,into these plans so work can be done or items purchased on a “pay-as-you-go” basis. The commission must still approve expenditures. Money for these plans comes from funds carried over from one year to the next, however, as reserves have been spent, these have dwindled.
• Adopted an agreement with Garden City-based Southwest Developmental Services Inc. as the Community Developmental Disability Organization for the county. Under the 2013 agreement, SDSI will provide all services required by Kansas statutes for a CDDO for a total of $100,000. In 2004, Barton County adopted a resolution designating SDSI as the CDDO. At that time, the county entered into a services agreement. The contribution was discussed during budget preparation. Mark Hinde, SDSI President, will provide details.
Of that $100,000, only about $9,000 goes to SDSI for administrative costs. The remainder goes to the providers SDSI works with, such as Sunflower Diversified Services, Rosewood Services and Pathways in Barton County. As CDDO, SDSI also helps manage state and federal money coming into the programs. In addition, the agency provides quality-of-service reviews and eligibility reviews for potential clients.
Besides Barton County, SDSI serves as CDDO for 17 other counties. It maintains an office in Great Bend with a staff of three.