When they met Thursday, Leavenworth County commissioners reviewed funding requests for the 2018 budget.

When they met Thursday, Leavenworth County commissioners reviewed funding requests for the 2018 budget.

The commission has not yet approved a budget for next year. They plan to have another budget work session next week.

During Thursday’s meeting, commissioners reviewed requests from various department directors and elected officials for what are called enhancements. These are items that are not funded in the current budget.

County Administrator Mark Loughry said the enhancement requests initially totaled about $1.6 million. But after meeting with department directors, the list has been reduced and the total now is about $700,000.

Loughry believes the county can fund the $700,000 worth of enhancements and still reduce the county’s overall mill levy by 0.5 mills for 2018.

The mill levy is used in determining property taxes.

“This does not include the increases from the outside agencies,” Loughry said.

He said outside agencies that receive support from the county have asked for about $100,000 in additional funding for 2018.

Loughry said commissioners will review the funding requests from outside agencies next week.

The county’s property tax rate was increased by 0.5 mills for 2017. When they approved the 0.5-mill increase last year, commissioners indicated they planned to have the increase in place for only one year.

“It was agreed to,” Commissioner Clyde Graeber acknowledged Thursday.

Commission Chairman Doug Smith was not on the board last year. But he said Thursday that commissioners should honor the earlier commitment.

Commissioners took no votes Thursday but they agreed to move forward with the enhancement requests from various county departments.

The enhancements that were reviewed Thursday included a request for the creation of new positions in the Sheriff’s Office, County Clerk’s Office and Emergency Management Department.

Emergency Management Director Chuck Magaha is seeking to add an exercise and planning assistant position to his department.

Magaha said the salary for the position will be funded by a federal grant. However, the grant funding will come in the form of a reimbursement.

The county would be responsible for paying for the employee’s benefits.

Sheriff Andy Dedeke is seeking to create two new positions in his office for a systems manager and an assistant maintenance position.

County Clerk Janet Klasinski is seeking a new position to help the county with grant management.

Klasinski said she would like to see a certified public accountant fill this position.

Other enhancement requests included $115,000 for parking lot improvements at the Justice Center and $45,000 for a new access control system at the Leavenworth County Courthouse.

Loughry recommended budgeting $50,000 to pay for outside funding requests that come up during the year. This would include requests for contributions to things such as local museum projects or school programs.

Loughry said a 3.4 percent pay increase is being planned for county employees. This includes a 2 percent increase called for under a pay plan that was approved last year as well as a 1.4 percent cost of living adjustment.

Public Works Director David Lutgen requested additional money so he can provide merit-based pay raises to employees in his department.

However, Loughry did not include this in the enhancements that were presented to commissioners Thursday for consideration.

Loughry said he was not supporting Lutgen’s request because the proposal was not well-defined and it would not be implemented for the entire county government.

Lutgen, who said he still wanted to discuss the issue with commissioners, questioned the fairness of giving every employee the same level of pay raise no matter the employee’s work performance.

Loughry said the current pay plan does not allow for a range of pay raises based on merit.

“Maybe the pay plan needs to be amended,” he said.

Commissioners made no decision to move forward with Lutgen’s request.

Commissioners did decide Thursday to leave the mill levy flat for the local service road and bridge fund. Taxes from this levy are only assessed to people who own property in unincorporated areas of the county.

At the the start of Thursday’s work session, there was a recommendation to reduce this levy by 0.2 mills.

Klasinski said keeping this levy flat without the 0.2-mill decrease would generate an additional $42,000 which could be added to the money being budgeted for a program that paves roads.

Commissioners agreed to keep this levy flat.

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