County Budget Surprise Planned?

A week after two County Commissioners lost their bid to return to their seats in 2017, and a third County Commissioner failed to gain his party’s nomination for a State race, will the Commission adopt the 2017 budget as it had drafted prior to the elections?

Commissioner Dave Smith said that “there could be a long discussion” at tomorrow’s public budget hearing.  The hearing is scheduled for 11:00 AM in room 107 of the City-County Building.

As outlined in the Saline County Budget Overview, the 2017 budget authority will be $43,928,562, a 10.64% increase from 2016’s budget of $39,253,075.  Of this, unreserved funds in the 2017 budget are $10,935,681, compared to $7,536,400 in 2016.

The Budget Overview includes assumptions that “property values are expected to rise by 2.99%”, that fuel prices will remain unstable, and that “changing laws and increased demands will inflate expenditures for public safety, District Court and the County Attorney”.

Earlier in the budget process, Commissioners learned that increases in property valuations would generate additional revenues.  Prior to the primary election, Commissioners instructed County Administrator Rita Deister that they wanted to reduce the mill levy by 1 mill and put the rest of the money in reserve.

But at today’s special meeting to canvass the votes, Commissioner John Price said he and fellow Commissioner Jim Gile had wondered about reducing the mill levy by 2 mills.  Smith said that it appeared they “could reduce taxes some more”.  Price, Gile and Smith were defeated in last Tuesday’s primary elections.

The 2017 Budget Overview provides for a $750 increase in salary steps.  Price said today that he “didn’t think employees needed a raise”.  Salary step increases of $500 and 1,000 had been discussed.  Earlier this year, the County funded a salary survey conducted by Archer Company.  It concluded that Saline County employees earned $1.33 less per hour than their peers.  A $750/year increase translates into a $0.36/hour increase for a full-time employee.  Last year, Commissioners approved a $1,000/year salary step increase.

The 2017 Budget Overview includes an additional $200,000 for jail inmate housing.  In 2015, the County spent $739,465 for “contract housing” of inmates outside the County because the jail facility was overcrowded.  In 2015, only $250,000 had been budgeted, leaving a significant shortfall.  In 2016, Commissioners increased the budget for contract housing to $400,000.  Given the plan to increase contract housing by another $200,000 in 2017, the budgeted amount is still $139,465 shy of what was spent in 2015.  Two months ago, the Jail’s census exceeded 300 inmates, a record high.

In the 2014 general election, Saline County voters defeated a measure to build a $46 million justice center that would have held the courtrooms and the jail.  The 2015-2016 County Commission has focused on measures to reduce jail recidivism, such as a Drug Court and having Central Kansas Mental Health staff work with inmates who are about to be released to help them meet basic needs (for shelter, medication, etc.)  Last month, the City completed its first Crisis Intervention Team training, which will help officers de-escalate situations and may help reduce arrests and charges.

However, the Saline County Sheriff’s Office administration and Jail have exceeded their budget dramatically.  This has forced the County to transfer additional funds from its reserves to cover costs.

  • In 2014, Sheriff’s Office administration and jail expenditures of $6,632,844 exceeded the budget of $6,023,477, resulting in a transfer of $609,367.
  • In 2015, the Sheriff’s Office administration and jail expenditures of $6,610,919 exceeded the budget of $6,126,840, resulting in a transfer of $484,079.
  • In 2016, $6,597,976 has been budgeted (which is $12,943 less than was spent in 2015 and the jail census is higher).
  • In 2017, $6,825,409 is budgeted.

In the past, the jail has also exceeded its budget as a result of inmate medical expenses.  Many inmates have no health insurance and the County is obligated to provide medical care as needed.

The Overview shows the following breakdown of budget winners and losers:

  • Road and Bridge will see an 8.3% increase in their budget of $7,666,045, up from $7,080,138 in 2016.
  • The EXPO Center’s Capital Improvement fund shows a 74.5% increase to $115,740, up from $66,337 in 2016. The lease for the EXPO Center expires August 31, 2019; a special committee has prioritized improvements the County would make in exchange for extending the lease.
  • Saline County’s Capital Improvement fund shows a 107.1% increase in its budget of $4,039,583, up from $1,950,350 in 2016. This fund provides for long ranging planning of capital assets.  For 2017, it will include a $908,836 transfer from the General Fund plus $3,130,747 in unencumbered funds from 2016 (provided they aren’t needed for unbudgeted expenditures) to equal $4,039,583 for 2017.
  • The Stabilization Fund is up 32.7%, with $1,945,986 budgeted in 2017, up from $1,466,732 in 2016.
  • County Commissioners have budgeted 23.4% more for themselves, with $261,232 for their salaries and expenses, up from $212,632 in 2016.
  • Saline County 911 shows no money budgeted for it in 2017; in 2016, $377,536 had been budgeted.
  • Central Kansas Mental Health will receive an additional appropriation of $36,607.
  • OCCK will see a reduction of its appropriation by $30,135.
  • The Equipment Improvement Fund includes $150,000 for new vehicles for the Sheriff’s Office, $10,540 for tasers, $7,000 for key cards and chairs for the County Attorney’s office and $17,500 to update the courtrooms of the District Court.

A “tax lid” goes into effect on January 1, 2018.  This means that should the newly elected County Commissioners need to raise additional revenues, they would be forced to get approval from voters before increases property taxes.

Proposed Saline County Budget:

2017 Budget attachment