Leavenworth County commissioners may be ready to schedule a public hearing on a proposed 2018 budget following a work session planned for next week.

Leavenworth County commissioners may be ready to schedule a public hearing on a proposed 2018 budget following a work session planned for next week.

Commissioners discussed the budget when they met Thursday.

County Administrator Mark Loughry said the county’s health insurance provider, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, has lowered the rate increase it is seeking for next year. At one point, county officials were informed that the health insurance provider was seeking a 23 percent increase. This later was reduced to a 13 percent increase.

The company has now reduced the increase to 7.4 percent after the county government sought other bids.

Loughry said there is one other insurance entity with a proposal that is competitive with Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s adjusted rate increase. He said county officials are now looking at how this other submission compares with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield coverage.

Loughry said the only thing left unresolved in regards to the 2018 budget is the level of funding for outside agencies.

The county traditionally provides financial support to a number of not-for-profit agencies in the county. Some of these agencies have requested additional funding for next year.

According to Loughry, the county government will be able to lower its mill levy by 0.5 mills if funding for the outside agencies remains unchanged from current levels.

The mill levy is used in determining property taxes.

Funding all of the requested increases, or enhancements, would require about 0.25 mills worth of taxes. Loughry said this means the county would be able to reduce the mill levy by only 0.25 mills.

“It would still be an overall decrease,” he said.

Commissioner Bob Holland asked if it is smart for the county to decrease its mill levy.

Loughry said he and County Clerk Janet Klasinski believe the county should maintain a flat mill levy. He said a reduced mill levy would become the county’s new baseline.

State law now places restrictions on cities and counties when it comes to collecting increased property tax revenue that exceeds the rate of inflation. The law includes a number of exemptions and local governments also can increase tax revenue with voter approval.

Last year, the County Commission increased the mill levy by 0.5 mills for 2017. At that time, members of the commission argued the tax levy was being increased to pay for a roof replacement at the Justice Center, and it was suggested the 0.5-mill increase would go away after one year.

Commissioners discussed scheduling a budget work session next week, possibly on Wednesday or Thursday.

Commissioner Clyde Graeber asked if representatives from the outside agencies will be invited to the budget work session.

Klasinski said representatives of the agencies already have made their presentations to the commission and will not be invited to next week’s work session.

However, members of the public will be able to attend the work session.

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