AUDIO: City Commissioners Criticize County

City Commissioners approve a tax increase, and criticize county commissioners calling them an “embarrassment”.

Monday evening Salina City Commissioners included a tax increase as part of the 2014 budget. Later in the meeting they criticized Saline County Commissioners calling them an “embarrassment”.

To begin their meeting on Monday, commissioners unanimously voted a mil levy increase of.75 mils to help fund the 2014 budget. The increase will raise an estimated $840,000 in additional revenue. From the additional revenue $440,000 will be allocated to street repairs, with the rest going into the general fund.

Among other business, commissioners approved a resolution asking the Kansas Corporation Commission to deny Westar Energy’s application for a rate increase in 2014. Westar has applied to the Kansas Corporation Commission for a 1.7 percent increase worth $31.7 million. The utility company says it needs the increase to meet federal requirements. Westar also wants to readjust rates so residential and small business customers pay more while industrial consumers pay less. Under the proposal, residential bills will increase nearly 9 percent, or about $7.50 a month for 900 kilowatt hours of usage. Bills for large industrial companies would drop about 8 percent.

Commissioners also responded to Saline County’s rejection of the City’s health department “Salina-Saline County Building Proposal” and their respective counter proposal. A resolution approved essentially is the final action in severing ties between the city and county in regard to operation of the health department. It includes the city paying $500,000 for repair of the current building, and the county paying $500,000. If the roof repair costs more that $1 million, an amount of $250, 000 from the health department’s reserve funds could be used as needed. Effective January 1st, the health department becomes a Saline County department.

After approving the resolution, City Commissioner Kaye Crawford said that she was “appalled” by the counties unwillingness to work with the city on this. She said that the county raised taxes by 2 mils to fund the health department, but if they had worked with the city there wouldn’t have been a need for a tax increase. ” She added “I think the tax payers should be up in arms.”

Mayor Barb Shirley said “I am embarrassed for the county, honestly”. She continued “I will go on record and say they are an embarrassment”.

Commissioner Randall Hardy questioned the funding of the health department, and urged the county to be “good stewards of the health department”.

Commissioner Jon Blanchard said “they said that they would not cut services or employees, and would fully fund the health department”. He added that “I hope that they were and continue to be sincere in that regard”.