Commissioners approve budget

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

Leavenworth County commissioners have approved a $57.35 million budget for the county government in 2021.

Commissioners approved the budget Wednesday following a public hearing. There was no one from the public who wished to speak during the hearing.

The 2021 budget will reduce the county’s overall mill levy by 0.25 mills.

The mill levy is used in determining property taxes.

Commissioner Jeff Culbertson said a 0.25-mill decrease is “reflective of all the little things that we’ve done this last year.” He said this includes cutting waste and changes to regulations to be more development friendly.

He said this is about all commissioners can do to reduce the mill levy because about 35% of the land in the county is tax exempt.

Commissioner Mike Stieben said county residents likely will not see an overall property tax reduction unless they speak with their local school boards and other taxing entities.

Stieben said the county’s mill levy represents only a small piece of people’s overall property tax bills.

Stieben expressed appreciation to County Administrator Mark Loughry, County Clerk Janet Klasinski and others who worked on the 2021 budget. Despite the impact of the pandemic, he said, county officials were still able to come up with a budget that has a slight reduction to the mill levy.

“I think it was hard work and I appreciate it,” Stieben said.

Loughry said that, excluding expenditures from sales tax revenue which are for specific projects, the 2021 budget has a spending increase of about $717,000 compared to the current year. He said this is an increase of about 1.65%.

“I think that’s very reasonable,” he said.

He said this is within the consumer price index increase.

Commissioners will have another public hearing next week for a separate budget for special funds including a local service road and bridge fund and sewer districts.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR

In other business

The Leavenworth County Commission:

• Commissioner Mike Stieben inquired about a county nepotism policy.

County Administrator Mark Loughry said a county nepotism policy addresses the hiring of a person who will be directly or indirectly supervised by a family member.

“That policy does apply to all non-elected department heads,” he said.

But Loughry said state officials have ruled a county nepotism policy cannot be applied to department heads who are elected to their positions.

The discussion about the nepotism policy comes after a lawsuit filed by a former county employee alleges County Treasurer Janice Van Parys has employed family members despite a county nepotism policy.

Van Parys was elected to her position.

• Listened to comments from audience member Nancy Carpenter. She argued the county government’s costs associated with a lawsuit concerning a special use permit for a proposed sand quarry should be paid by the owner of the proposed site of the quarry.

• Met behind closed doors in executive session for about 90 minutes. Commissioners initially went into executive session for one hour for consultation with an attorney. They then went back into executive session for an additional 30 minutes to consult with legal counsel.

After returning to open session, commissioners took no action.

• During a work session, commissioners discussed possible penalties that could be charged to companies that violate policies regarding utilities located in county rights-of-way.