By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Pawnee County Commissioners amend 6-mill levy
Health care funding discussed as budget time approaches
pawnee county logo

LARNED — The 2009 resolution establishing the levy of 6 mills Pawnee County tax was amended following extended discussion at Monday’s meeting of the Pawnee County Commissioners. The amendment is a first step in addressing the current needs of county residents in the wake of several changes to the county’s health-care structure since the resolution was passed.

Last February, the commissioners voted to pay off the $13 million revenue bond balance on the Pawnee Valley Community Hospital 15 years ahead of schedule, utilizing funds from the county’s 6-mill tax earmarked for “health,” and from 1% sales tax accounts, as well as PVCH operations revenues. 

Heading into discussion of the county’s 2023 budget, the 6-mill levy remains on the books, even though the bond balance was retired. Monday’s discussion centered on the levy as it continues to serve a purpose in funding health-care needs of the county.

To retain statutory authority and create flexibility in their budget-building process, the commissioners unanimously voted to amend the original 2009 resolution to stipulate that an “annual tax, in an amount not to exceed Six (6.00) mills” would be levied and placed in the fund renamed as the “Pawnee County Health Fund.”

The words “not to exceed” mean the tax can be less than 6.00 mills if desired.

Effectively, the amendment opens the door for a reduction in county tax as the 2023 budget is being prepared. With the amendment, the county commissioners have until Oct. 1 each year to make changes in the amount of tax levy, which for 2023 could drop as much as 4 mills under the current rate structure. 

An evolving health picture

Pawnee County Attorney Douglas McNett, who drafted several resolutions for the commissioners to consider at Monday’s meeting, explained that the original resolution, while broad in scope, was limited in authority for the commissioners to adjust health care levy amounts going forward.

“As stated, it’s a flat tax, it can’t be moved up or down,” McNett said. The resolution was passed with state statute authority as provided by K.S.A. 65-201, et. seq.  

A 1% sales tax measure had also been passed by the voters of Pawnee County in 2009. It separately targeted health-care needs of the county, while the new hospital was being constructed.

As created, transfers are drawn directly from either fund, as there is currently no capital outlay fund specified for health care in the county budget, McNett said.

McNett noted that simply rescinding the 6-mill levy would affect funding for the Pawnee County Health Department, which currently receives 2 mills. Five years ago, in response to concerns raised about the disposition of grant funds received by the PCHD, the department had been placed outside the general fund in the county budget.

Funds from the 1% sales tax, meanwhile, are slated to cover operations for the county EMS department, which was combined by the county from Larned and Burdett EMS in January.

McNett also noted that the county’s current contract with HaysMed had yet to be drafted for later approval.

Commissioner Bob Rein noted that the current structure of the health-care funds should continue to be reviewed.

“It’s not as clean as it should be,” he said. “Putting in this amendment is a first step. If we were to do away with this then we wouldn’t have any other place to put the heath department except under general; in the short term the 6-mill is going to be paying for the health department,” he said.