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County Ponders Proposed Construction Program

KSAL StaffMarch 7, 2017

Saline County Commissioners Tuesday welcomed staff recommendations on a Proposed Construction Program 2017-2031 for Bridge Replacements, Rehabilitation, Maintenance Projects and Reinforced Concrete Box Culvert Projects.  The 22 page report can be found at, under County Commissioners agenda tab for March 7.

County Engineer Neil Cable compiled the information.  Both he and the Commissioners welcome public input on whether the proposed projects meet the needs of residents in each area.  Commissioners noticed that in the near future, multiple projects are proposed in Commission District #5; Commissioners expressed a desire to follow staff’s recommendations rather than dividing projects to be completed equally between commission districts.

Commissioners also unanimously approved spending $44,080 to have Reece Construction replace a “southern box culvert” on the Road and Bridge property.  R&B crews will perform some of the excavating and backfilling work themselves.

Planning Commission Members Named

Following a review of expression of interest forms, Commissioner Mike White moved that:

  • Mike Trow be re-appointed to the commission; he lives in the city.
  • Derius Mammen be appointed to the commission; he lives in the city.
  • Duane Flaherty be appointed to the commission; he lives in the county. He has served on the commission in previous years.
  • Greg Hecker be appointed to the commission; he lives in the county.

White’s motion carried.  Next week, the Commission plans to approve resolutions finalizing these appointments.

Taxing Matters

County Appraiser Sean Robertson updated Commissioners on appraisal valuations.  Residential properties are valued using a “comprable sales approach”.  Commercial properties are valued using either a cost approach or an income approach.  Sale prices of “open market” purchases are used to determine valuations.  The Assessor’s Office determines values each year; they don’t look at a property’s previous year’s value to create the current year’s value.  This discussion was taped and will appear on ACCESS TV.

Commissioners also heard from County Counselor Mike Montoya and Robertson about the status of a tax exemption request involving the K-State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center.  Commissioners decided to wait until after a scheduled hearing on Friday to take action.  While several Commissioners said that philosophically, they agreed the BSIC should be tax exempt, it isn’t in their authority to grant such an exemption.  An exemption can only be granted by a state Tax Exemption Commission.  Montoya and Robertson described a timeline of events involving the Salina Economic Development Council.  The Tax Exemption Commission can grant a ten year tax exemption; Montoya and Robertson speculated that the SCED might be seeking a permanent tax exemption; to that end, State Representative JR Claeys is seeking support for House Bill 2146.

February’s sales tax collected $462,284 for the county; this is 0.18% less than the $463,102 collected in February 2016.  Year-to-date, $838,614 has been collected; this is 0.91% less than the $846,273 collected in 2016.

Budget Process Started

Commissioners spent two hours working through a presentation by County Administrator Rita Deister that addressed the “tax lid challenge”, which has been imposed by the State Legislature.  She wrote, “The budget lid is going to make” completing the 2018 budget “exceptionally challenging”.

Deister speculated that revenues would likely remain the same in 2018, as are projected for 2017 but promised additional information at a future meeting.  She reviewed “elective services” that include funding the EXPO Center, sanitation and child care services in other counties, Home Health Care, and Maternal Child Care.  The Commission also appropriates funds for allocating agencies that include:  ACCESS TV, Central Kansas Mental Health Center, OCCK, economic development, Commission on Aging, Chamber of Commerce, air fare subsidies, Military Affairs Council, Drug Court, and North Central Regional Planning.

Operational efficiencies include the possibility of “overhiring” corrections officers, with the goal of reducing overtime (this was a $162,841 expense in 2016).  Another possibility includes putting the juvenile detention facility back into use so that it could house possibly as many as 25 jail inmates.

As additional expenditures, the Commission has been advised that employee health insurance premiums may increase 14% next year.  An additional computer tech position may need to be created and the County will need to pick up $14,000 in Drug Court expenses.

When all factors are taken into consideration, Deister projected that if a budget were written to fund the status quo, it would exceed the tax lid by close to $500,000.

As options, Deister suggested the Commission could consider:

  • Issuing bonds for capital projects—certain road, bridge and jail projects.
  • Using the Oliver Hagg Fund (of $130,000) to fund capital improvement projects at the EXPO Center, provided the City and County could reach an agreement on extending the EXPO Center lease.
  • Reducing funds to allocating agencies.
  • Holding an election to raise the “tax lid”.
  • Using alcohol sales tax funds to support activities related to Drug Court and allocating agencies.
  • Pro-rating expenses for Information Technologies, Human Resources, Administration, Finance, Payroll, and GIS to law enforcement and rural fire districts (with a possible budget impact of $64,000/year).
  • Pursing the use of electronic “ankle bracelets” and “pre-trial bonding” to reduce costs at the jail.

In no particular order, Commissioners identified their goals for the budget process:

  • Giving the Sheriff’s Office a realistic budget.
  • Finding ways to fund road improvement projects.
  • Funding salary increases for county workers, as suggested by a 2016 Archer Salary survey.

Commissioners also:

  • Agreed that they want to continue to participate in a Federal Fund Exchange program. The County will receive $337,164 for 2017; some of this money will go to pay remaining costs for where a bridge on Water Well Road crosses West Spring Creek.
  • Learned it will cost $6,728 to repair a generator at the jail.
  • Briefly discussed a request to allow hunting and walking on the Oliver Hagg farm.

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