The Riley County commissioners approved to accept the 2020 budget on Monday.
The budget was approved for publication on July 11th for the minimum 14 day period. The 2020 budget was accepted with a mill levy of 43.065 mills, which is a 2.148 mill increase over last year’s.
Before opening the floor to public comment, Chairman Ron Wells wanted to clear some things up first about the mill increase. He spoke about some of the major projects and unforeseen purchases the county had to make this year. This was due to the firing range purchase, the 27th payroll, law enforcement center HVAC emergency purchase, the mortgage registration fees from the state, and other state associated costs.
“These are the simple facts. We’re funding Riley County in an efficient manner with low debt, only $8 million dollars,” says Wells, “We have things payed off and money in the bank. Of the 105 counties in Kansas, we are clear down at the bottom when it comes to mill levies.”
Wells says the firing range alone is two mills of taxes since they were told by the public to not use condemnation. This would have saved the county more money, but that was not what the public wanted. The 27th payroll and emergency HVAC purchase were both over $800,000 in additional unforeseen costs. Another unforeseen cost will be the road maintenance for those roads affected by the flooding. Several townships are not able to afford fixing their roads so they have come to the county for help.
After Wells comments, the public hearing was open to hear citizen comments, which there were none. Commissioner Marvin Rodriguez was in favor saying they can’t continue to be an efficient county if they don’t adequately fund their departments.
“Our employees do a good job and we have to reward them as such. And if we don’t we aren’t going to get what we want,” says Rodriguez, “Even cutting positions is not going to help, it’s going backwards if we do.”
Commissioner John Ford was in agreement with these statements, but was not comfortable passing a budget with a mill levy increase. Before the budget was sent to publication , he wanted to use the time to find ways to make cuts to the budget to lower the mill levy.
“Maybe I’m feeling a little bad right now, but maybe I wasn’t a little bit more proactive in this process with this being my first. I understand where the process is now and I can certainly work extremely harder and maybe accomplish that for 2021,” says Ford, “But to me this is still larger than last year and would like to see us get lower.”
Over the last few weeks, Ford looked at potentially cutting the remaining 130 thousand dollars from the budget stabilization fund to offset some of their costs.
Ford hopes in the future the commissioners can look at small reductions in operations and personnel costs.
“The very thing that we need to create the revenue to do things in the future is just going to be choked off if we continue to do this,” says Ford.
Commissioners voted to accept the budget 2-1 with Ford voting against it.
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