Leavenworth County commissioners had their first in a series of meetings to review a proposed $50.8 million county budget for 2020.
The first meeting took place Monday morning. Commissioners are scheduled to meet twice today to review various portions of the budget.

Leavenworth County commissioners had their first in a series of meetings to review a proposed $50.8 million county budget for 2020.

The first meeting took place Monday morning. Commissioners are scheduled to meet twice today to review various portions of the budget. They will have additional budget meetings Wednesday and July 23.

The 2020 budget that is being presented to commissioners calls for the county’s total mill levy to remain flat at 37.112 mills.

The mill levy is used in determining property taxes.

Even though the overall proposed mill levy is unchanged, it is estimated that the county would collect about $1.8 million more in property taxes for 2020 because of an increase in valuation.

The county is subject to a state property tax lid law that places restrictions on the collection of increased property tax revenue that exceeds the rate of inflation. But some areas of the county budget are exempt from these restrictions.

County Administrator Mark Loughry said Monday that the budget meetings provide commissioners the opportunity to give feedback. He said this is the appropriate time for commissioners to recommend changes.

Loughry recommended commissioners avoid looking at cutting from specific budget items. But he suggested commissioners can indicate how much they feel the budget should be cut.

Commissioner Mike Stieben suggested small cuts can be made as commissioners go through the budget to add up to as much as one quarter of a mill.

One quarter of a mill would equal about $181,000, according to County Clerk Janet Klasinski.

Loughry said, if commissioners have a goal of reducing the budget by one quarter of a mill, he can visit with department directors about making necessary cuts.

During Monday’s meeting, commissioners reviewed sections of the budget related to the Public Works Department.

Public Works Director Mike Spickelmier said commissioners will need to have a discussion about fees at the Leavenworth County Transfer Station later this year.

Loughry said the Transfer Station should be self sufficient.

He said the county levies a small amount of taxes for services that are offered for free at the Transfer Station.

“We had a pretty good rate increase at the beginning of the year,” Loughry said.

Commissioners also reviewed budget numbers for the Information Systems department.

IS Director Larry Malbrough said money is being budgeted for a new county website.

Commissioner Jeff Culbertson asked if there has been any discussion about replacing an information booth that previously was located on the main floor of the Leavenworth County Courthouse. He said the person who operated this booth also fielded calls made to what was the main phone number for the county government.

“It worked great,” he said.

Commissioner Chad Schimke suggested a computer monitor could be set up in the courthouse to provide answers to frequently asked questions. He asked if an existing department within the county government can handle calls that come into a central phone number.

Loughry said he can look into setting up an unmanned kiosk at the courthouse. He also can check with departments to determine if they have staff available to answer calls made to a main phone number.

Schimke also asked Monday about the county government possibly purchasing the building that houses the Council on Aging.

The Council on Aging operates at a building located at 1830 S. Broadway in Leavenworth. The building once was owned by the county government and served as the county infirmary.

The county government currently leases the building for the Council on Aging.

Loughry said the building would have to be available for purchase. He said county officials can reach out to the owners of the property.

Today, commissioners are scheduled to review budget information for offices operated by elected officials including the Leavenworth County Sheriff’s Office and County Attorney’s Office. Commissioners also are scheduled to review budget information related to the Leavenworth County Extension Office and Council on Aging.

Klasinski said commissioners likely will hold a public hearing on the 2020 budget Aug. 21. Following the public hearing, commissioners will be able to vote to approve the budget.

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