The Leavenworth County Commission, at least for now, appears to have put its 2014 fiscal year budget to bed, sending the document forward for an Aug. 15 public hearing.
The vote to public also ended for now the debate surrounding funding for two economic development entities that operate countywide ― the Leavenworth County Development Corporation and the Leavenworth County Port Authority.
"We are the only ones that are supporting the port authority, which then turns around and gives 3/4 of it to the LCDC," Commission Chairman Bob Holland said. "We need a little more control, I think."
LCDC is funding by both private-sector donations and contributions from the county and the cities of Leavenworth, Lansing, Basehor and Tonganoxie.
The commission had decided to move all but $50,000 ― the amount the county owes each year as an incentive for the Veterans Affairs Consolidated Patient Account Center ― out of its economic development fund and into the column for budget "enhancements" in excess of the base budget.
The $348,815 taken out amounted to the total budget requests to the county for LCPA and LCDC. The commission has debated whether to plug that amount back in several times since.
"I know some of us are for giving the funding and some of us are against giving the funding," Holland said.
But Holland said he had a proposal he hoped would appease both sides ― take the amount that the county would have provided the two organizations and move it into the county's capital reserve fund, earmarked for LCDC and LCPA. LCDC is primarily focused on marketing the county to primary industries, including manufacturing, while the port authority is a quasi-government agency run by a five-member board that in recent years has shifted its focus from buying and leasing property to primarily offering financial incentives for new businesses to move to Leavenworth County.
"And if they come up with this great project that they want to help funding on, we have the money there," Holland said.
Commissioner Dennis Bixby said he supported such a measure, though he also suggested that the county not earmark the funding specifically for LCDC or LCPA, but rather just for "economic development" within its capital reserve account. He said that way, the county could use a portion of that allocation, if need be, for economic development projects.
"When we're offered an opportunity and they've done all they can, I think that account needs to be there in order for us to be able to pony up," he said.
Commissioner Clyde Graeber asked what that means for LCDC, an organization that unlike the port authority has a paid staff of three.
"So, in this coming year, LCDC would get no funding?" Graeber asked, to which Holland said yes.
Page 2 of 2 - County Administrator Pat Hurley said LCDC has cash reserves to draw on for interim funding.
"According to what Steve Jack (LCDC executive director) gave us the other day, they project at the end of 2013 their ending balance to be $330,000," he said.
The port authority has something like $800,000 in its cash reserves, though $260,000 of that remains committed to the extension of a gas line near the new industrial park in Tonganoxie to make way for an Army Reserve Center.
The city of Leavenworth also recently pulling its funding for LCDC entirely and the county government itself has no dedicated economic development position. Graeber said he wanted commissioners to be careful in pursuing the cuts to either organization.
"We cannot sit here as Leavenworth County and think that we can automatically compete with Wyandotte, Johnson, Shawnee," he said. "We're competing with giants and economic development doesn't just happen because you've got a nice county and a lot of ground."
Bixby said he sees the cutback as a one-year change.
"We're not turning our backs on economic development, we're just saying not that much, not right now," he said.
The commission voted to forward its 2014 budget for publication, with a public hearing at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 15.