Leavenworth County commissioners have taken another step to formally place a proposed tax increase for mental health services on a ballot for later this year.

Commissioners had voted last year to place the tax question on the ballot for the 2020 primary election.

On Wednesday, commissioners approved a resolution to levy additional property taxes for the 2021 budget for mental health services in an amount not to exceed $1.164 million.

Even though commissioners unanimously approved the resolution, the tax increase will still have to be put before voters.

County Clerk Janet Klasinski said the ballot question will be based on the language in the resolution.

Commissioners have agreed to put the question before voters at the request of members of the Leavenworth County Mental Health Task Force.

Last year, the task force submitted a proposal for addressing mental health issues to the County Commission.

The proposal includes recommendations for providing clinician support to schools, providing a mental health case worker to a local homeless shelter and matching an incentive for the state government to invest in a crisis stabilization facility.

The recommendations also include a proposal for increasing compensation for staff at The Guidance Center, which is a community mental health agency that serves Leavenworth County.

Klasinski said the amount of $1.164 million cited in the resolution is based on estimates provided by the task force.

She said this dollar figure would equate to about 1.7 mills. Mills are used in determining property taxes.

County Commissioner Vicky Kaaz, who serves as chairwoman of the task force, said a breakdown of the approximate cost of the tax increase to individual taxpayers will be developed ahead of the election.

“There will be an estimate of the cost,” she said.

Klasinski said the ballot question will include the words “not to exceed” when referring to the amount of the tax increase.

Kaaz said the amount of the tax increase, if approved by voters, could be less if other sources of revenue for mental health services increase.

Klasinski said additional action will not be required from commissioners in order to have the issue on the ballot for the Aug. 4 primary.

Klasinski said the question is being placed on the primary election ballot so the tax increase can be part of the 2021 budget if approved. The Nov. 3 general election will come after a deadline for the 2021 budget.

Kaaz said voters who are not affiliated with the Republican or Democratic parties will still be able to vote on the tax question during the primary election.

County Commissioner Mike Stieben said Wednesday’s resolution will become moot if the ballot measure fails.

“We’ve authorized it, but we’re not required to spend the money,” he said.

If the ballot measure fails, county funding for mental health services will be available only through the regular budget process, Klasinski said.

Kaaz said after the meeting that she does not believe her role with the Mental Health Task Force created a conflict of interest when voting on Wednesday’s resolution.

Kaaz said she was asked to serve on the task force by County Commission Chairman Doug Smith. Kaaz said she represents the entire County Commission on the task force.

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