An oops! slows county budget work

By Maura Wery

County authorities reacted to discovery of a $165,000 omission in their proposed fiscal 2014 budget Thursday by authorizing additional spending reductions to avoid a larger-than-envisioned increase in the levy.

The omission, which was discovered Monday, involved funds intended to underwrite employee cost of living increases. When those funds were restored, it threatened to raise the levy increase from the 2.8 mills that had been on the table to 3.1 mills.

Commissioners, who said they had intended all along to reduce the levy increase below the 2.8 mill level, responded to discovery of the omission by directing cuts from internet technology, public works and other county departments. Those cuts brought the increase down to 1.9 mills.

“A mill levy (increase) over 3 is unacceptable,” commissioner Dave Lewis said. Commissioners  agreed that there were several departments within the county that could make adjustments and get the levy increase below 2 mills.

The current county levy is 35.3 mills; if the 1.9 mill increase is adopted, the levy would rise to 37.2 mills. A mill is $1 in tax for every $1,000 in assessed valuation, so a 37.2 mill levy would translate to about $428 in tax for every $100,000 of residential property value. Factoring in average 3 percent appraisal changes, the result would be about a $34 tax increase per $100,000 in residential property value.

GIS/IT director Robert Nall cut almost $72,000 from his budget. Nall cut $25,000 from aerial photography, saying that he could take the monies from the tech fund in deeds’ budget. Beyond that, $30,000 was cut from unneeded storage facilities, and another $17,000 was cut from eliminating new desktops and one new server.

Commissioners asked public works to take around $65,000 out of their budget, which had already been reduced by $114,000. Commissioners also lowered the county building fund by $65,000, putting off upkeep projects for the county buildings.

Other cuts included $5,000 from the county counselor for furniture; Planning and Development reduced its budget by $5,000; and deeds cut its budget by $1,500.

With those cuts, the mill levy increase was reduced to 1.9 mills. Commissioners also asked that a department-wide email be sent inquiring about the potential for further reductions. Commissioners said they intend to look at those ideas at the next budget work session Monday.

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