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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Commission to publish budget slightly above revenue neutral

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

By Charlene Sims

MOUND CITY – On Monday, Aug. 14, the Linn County Commissioners approved publishing the budget as not meeting revenue neutral now and looking at more options to lower it before Sept. 5.

County Clerk David Lamb presented the figures he had worked up for the county’s 2024 budget with the commissioners.

Lamb said that the way he has the budget set up now the county budget will be 41.327 mills which will be about 0.4 mills over the revenue neutral figure of 40.994. This amount is actually 1.2 mills under this year’s budget.

Lamb explained that the special rural fire budget is separate and it is set up for 1.652 mills, which is under the revenue neutral rate of 1.87 mills and also the current budget of 1.921 mills.

Combined the two budgets are 42.979 mills which puts them 0.115 mills over revenue neutral but 1.523 under the current 2023 budget.

Lamb explained that the biggest difference is the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) of 4% that he added in. He said that it comes out to about 87 cents per hour for all employees. He said that would be a $300,000 expense.

He said without the cost of living, the county would actually be under revenue neutral.

Lamb said he thought it would be a big mistake to go under revenue neutral.

He said the county was in a year when it’s had increased value again.

“We are better off staying at that level and keeping our reserves built up where we need them, “ said Lamb. “I would be more in favor of a year when values are down and we are looking at increasing levies to actually go under if we needed to.”

Commissioner Jim Johnson asked how much of the income off of the jail was figured back into the budget.

Lamb told him, “All of the income from the jail goes into the general fund. Where we really made up the difference on it this year is that we only had budgeted about $500,000 income and we are looking at bringing in over $900,000.”

Lamb said that going over what the jail had made the first seven months of this year, he calculated that the amount of income would be about $894,000 so he budgeted $900,000 income for 2024

Lamb told the commissioners that he knew that was lower than what Sheriff Kevin Friend thinks the jail will bring in.

Commissioner Jason Hightower said that means that the county would have to cut back about $110, 000 from the county budget to meet revenue neutral.

Johnson said that they needed to go back to looking at Tri-Ko and Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center (SEKMHC).

Lamb said the easiest thing to do is publish it the way he has it now going over revenue neutral and you can still make cuts through Sept 5.

Lamb said that the county had met revenue neutral last year by using ARPA funds for employee benefits and had cut into the county’s reserve two years ago.

McCullough asked what other governments in the county had gone over revenue neutral this year.

Lamb said that three cities, La Cygne, Mound City and Linn Valley had gone over revenue neutral this year. He said all three school districts including the area covered by the Anderson County school district had gone over. Last year, four cities went over.

Lamb told the commissioners that the Southeast Kansas Library System had gone over and the Linn County Library District No. 1 (Parker) had gone over. Last year three of the six library districts went over.

No townships went over revenue neutral this year, according to Lamb.

Johnson asked the other commissioners how they felt about staying revenue neutral.

Hightower said that he would like to stay as lean as possible if we can figure out where to make these cuts.

Hightower brought up a $20,000 savings that he thought could be used to reduce the amount. He said that the health department had been talking about purchasing a $40,000 truck to pull their trailer.

While they had not budgeted the whole amount, Linn County Health Department Director Amanda Snyder had asked the commissioners about purchasing a truck several months ago and using the $20,000 that was in the health department’s capital outlay fund as part of the cost.

McCullough said if they were going to make that an option to take that out then he wanted to go through and access everyone’s budget.

Hightower said the only reason he was bringing that one up is because he wasn’t in favor of allowing it to stay in the budget because he didn’t think the commission would ever approve it anyway.

Hightower stated that, “I won’t vote for it to pass.”

Johnson said that he wouldn’t either.

“So if we leave it out there in the budget we are taxing the people for it even though we have determined that we are not going to allow them to make that purchase,” said Hightower. “That’s the reason that I bring it up, Danny.”

Johnson said that he was in favor of publishing the budget as long as they continued to work on getting it down and staying revenue neutral.

The commissioners unanimously approved publishing the budget as it is presently knowing that they have until Sept. 5 to lower it. The revenue neutral and budget hearings will be held that day at 11 a.m.

The commission discussed contacting Tri-Ko and asking them to submit a budget more in line with the other counties that support them.

Johnson questioned why SEKMHC did not get back with the figures the commission had asked for.

Hightower asked Thompson to look and see if there were statutes that required the county to support SEKMHC and Tri-Ko.

County Counselor Gary Thompson asked Lamb if the tax sale revenue has been built into this budget. Thompson said that while he knows it is not all county tax money, the sale brought in between $150,000 and $200,000.

Lamb said that he would finish up what he needs publish it next week. He said that there may be some other income that can be adjusted.

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