With concern about the fiscal impact of the COVID-19 crisis, Leavenworth County commissioners voted Wednesday to table a number of funding requests from local museums.
Commissioners did approve funding for three organizations that offer youth activities. The money given to these programs will come from a special fund that has to be used for parks and recreation activities.
In the 2020 budget for the county government, commissioners set aside $50,000 to pay for funding requests from local museums and historical societies. Commissioners set aside an additional $50,000 to pay for funding requests that may come from other types of community organizations such as school groups or animal shelters.
The county also operates a special parks and recreation fund. Money in this fund came to the county from the state and was collected from a tax on alcohol sales.
Going into Thursday’s meeting, the special parks and recreation fund had about $17,000, County Clerk Janet Klasinski said.
On Wednesday, commissioners were scheduled to consider multiple requests for funding from museums within the county as well as organizations that provide youth activities.
Funding requests submitted by seven museums and historical associations totaled $108,748, which exceeded the $50,000 commissioners had budgeted for these type of expenditures.
Commissioner Mike Stieben noted the COVID-19 crisis likely will have an impact on the county government’s finances. He asked if it would be prudent to delay consideration of the funding requests until after commissioners have approved the county’s budget for 2021.
Commissioners typically approve a budget for the next year in August.
“I think the concern is a valid one,” County Administrator Mark Loughry said.
He agreed it may be prudent to delay making expenditures for agencies outside of the county government.
He said there would be an exception for expenditures made from the county’s special parks and recreation fund because of the limitations of how this money can be used.
Stieben said it made sense to “push off” the funding requests unless there is something that is time sensitive.
Commission Chairman Doug Smith said he believes the requests for the youth programs are time sensitive.
Commissioner Jeff Culberston made a motion to fund the youth programs now but place consideration of the requests from museums and historical societies on hold until after county officials figure out the budget impact of the COVID-19 crisis.
The motion was unanimously approved.
With the vote, commissioners approved the allocation of $4,000 to American Legion Post 23 in Leavenworth for its youth programs, $10,000 to the Easton Youth Activity Association and $3,000 to the Leavenworth Youth Football Association.
After the vote, Commissioner Chad Schimke suggested reaching out to the museums and historical societies that requested funding to determine the critical nature of the requests.
Also Wednesday, commissioners approved a letter to send to Gov. Laura Kelly. The letter asks the governor to allow county governments to have full authority for setting restrictions related to COVID-19.
Last week, at least some of the commissioners expressed disappointment that the county would not be able to implement its own plan for easing restrictions in Leavenworth County. Instead, a statewide order will be followed in the county.
Commissioners said a county plan that had been drawn up would have been less stringent than the state order.