The Leavenworth County Commission has approved the 2017 budget for the county government with a property tax increase.

The Leavenworth County Commission has approved the 2017 budget for the county government with a property tax increase.

The $75 million budget was approved Thursday by a vote of 2-1. Commissioner Dennis Bixby voted against it. He previously had expressed opposition to the tax increase.

The budget will increase the county’s mill levy by 0.5 mills. Mills are used in determining property taxes.

County Clerk Janet Klasinski has said the a 0.5-mill increase will result in about $11 in additional property taxes for the year for the owner of a $200,000 home.

The tax increase will raise the county’s overall mill levy from 37.127 to 37.627.

Before the vote Thursday, Klasinski said the money from the tax increase is being dedicated to the replacement of the roof of the Justice Center.

Commission Chairman Bob Holland suggested the 0.5-mill increase will go away after 2017.

“It certainly can,” Klasinski said.

She said the mill levy is not being designated for any office within the county government.

Holland said he thought commissioners had agreed the 0.5-mill increase would sunset after 2017.

“I don’t think you can bind a future commission to do that,” Bixby said.

The makeup of the County Commission will be different next year. Bixby will be replaced by Doug Smith.

County Administrator Pat Hurley said doing away with the 0.5-mill increase would be subject to action by the commission next year.

Holland expressed frustration that this had not been mentioned during earlier budget meetings.

Commissioner Clyde Graeber said he does not see any way commissioners can predict what the following year’s budget will be.

Holland said he felt the situation was misleading to members of the public.

Hurley said the most commissioners can do is express their opinion about what they would like to see happen next year.

He said the 2018 budget may be impacted by a state tax lid law.

“You don’t know where we’ll be,” he said.

Bixby said county officials “probably need to be a little proactive on our maintenance.”

He said the county needs to do a better job of long-term planning for future expenses.

“And that will help us with the budget,” he said.

He said one can predict that Justice Center will need a new roof again in about 20 years.

Klasinski said this is why the county created a capital improvement fund in 1992. But she said county officials have not put money into this fund in recent years in order to avoid mill levy increases.

Graeber said he understood what Holland was driving for. He said 05.-mill reduction could be the starting point for the 2018 budget.

“That is exactly the way I will start it,” Klasinski said.

Bixby said the county could borrow money to pay for the roof replacement. He said this is only way commissioners could bind a future commission because the debt would have to be paid.

“I’m not advocating borrowing,” he said.

Thursday’s discussion came during a required public hearing for the 2017 budget.

During the hearing, former County Clerk Larry Scheller questioned whether money remaining from a countywide sales tax could be used to pay for the roof replacement.

The sales tax officially will sunset at the end of the year, but a new sales tax will take its place.

Klasinski said money remaining from the existing sales tax will be used for the replacement of a bridge, overlay work on County Road 1, a communications upgrade and repairs to Mt. Olivet Road.

In a separate motion, commissioners approved a 2017 special funds budget which includes a tax levy for a local service road and bridge fund. Klasinski said this levy will be assessed only to people who own property in unincorporated areas of the county.

She said this mill levy will remain unchanged from the current year at 8.467 mills.

Holland noted that this budget will not include funding for the county’s Participatory Road Program.

For the Participatory Road Program, county crews pave sections of gravel roads using what is known as a chip-seal process after landowners have donated the necessary easements.

The special funds budget was unanimously approved.

After commissioners had approved the budget, they considered a request for funding from the Leavenworth County Historical Society.

Mary Ann Sachse Brown, president of the Historical Society, noted that the county government used to provide money to the organization. But after the county funding was cut, the LCHS learned to operate on a pared down budget.

But she said general maintenance at the Carroll Mansion Museum has been deferred.

“The situation has reached a critical level this year,” she said.

She reviewed a priority list of funding needs including expenses associated with air-conditioning units, plumbing and a porch replacement.

She asked commissioners to consider providing $25,000 in funding to the organization as well as a future level of support.

“We don’t often show up on your doorstep for money,” she said.

Commissioners approved $10,000 in funding for the organization.

Klasinski said there is funding available in the current year’s budget for the contribution.

Bixby also offered to host a breakfast fundraiser for the LCHS at the Leavenworth County Courthouse.

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