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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Budget talks move forward

  • Sitting down Tuesday, the Leavenworth County Commission had some tough decisions to make.
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  • Sitting down Tuesday, the Leavenworth County Commission had some tough decisions to make.
    Following a week and a half of budget hearings, the county had about $992,000 to fulfill enhancement requests totaling more than $2 million ― those items that they had previously agreed to keep for consideration ― without raising their mill levy.
    “What we propose doing today,” said County Administrator Pat Hurley, “is go through the enhancements and start making some decisions, saying yay or nay or keep it alive for now.”
    As a result, some of the budget enhancements requested by the county's different departments were cut from the proposed expenditure list, including some big-ticket items from both the sheriff's office and the emergency medical services department.
    “This is a tough budget year,” said Commissioner Clyde Graeber.
    Other proposed expenditures in excess of the base budgets were also reduced, including requests from the Guidance Center. After offering several options, Commissioners tentatively agreed to fund the Guidance Center's $172,273 request ― consisting of a $65,550 base request, a $67,173 enhancement for increased operation costs and a $40,000 request to help cover the mental health provider's building costs ― at $105,550, or the base request plus $50,000.
    Riverside Resources, a group that provides services to the developmentally disabled, was the subject of a similar negotiation among commissioners. The group likewise requested the same base amount as last year ― $66,500 for operations ― plus $30,600 for what was originally thought to be debt costs on a building purchased years ago. Hurley said after reviewing their own books, Riverside told the county that the money was actually being used for maintenance on its buildings.
    “I don't think they were trying to be misleading,” he said.
    Still, commissioners said they saw the value in funding the organization.
    “I don't see any way we can turn our backs on Riverside Resources,” Graeber said.
    The commission ultimately agreed to fund the organization in the same amount as the previous year.
    Among the items eliminated entirely, unless commissioners decide to add it in later, was a $238,000 salary reclassification for employees of the EMS department. Commissioners agreed that the department was at a disadvantage in its pay scale compared to those in nearby departments in the Kansas City area. But Graeber said that measure, not the first such adjustment for the department, might not even be enough to stem turnover of emergency medical technicians.
    “We cannot compete with Johnson County, probably even Lawrence,” Graeber said.
    But commissioners did agree to fund a position in EMS that had left one of the three shifts short a member for several years.
    The commission also agreed to fund other requests, like an upgrade to Courthouse security measures, out of already accumulated reserve funds.
    Page 2 of 2 - All told, the county's contracted accountant Steve Wagner said the county has about $451,112 left to program without raising its property tax mill levy. But they have yet to talk about the Council on Aging's request to purchase three vehicles or the $348,815 requested in the economic development budget to fund the Leavenworth County Port Authority or the Leavenworth County Development Corporation.

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