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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Linn County up nearly $13 million in value

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

MOUND CITY – As budget season begins, the Linn County Commissioners start tentatively approving budgets, questioning budgets, and discussing various options.

Early in the commission meeting of the Monday, June 5, County Clerk David Lamb updated the commissioners on the valuation of the county. Lamb told the commissioners that he had all the valuations in now, so he can now start getting all the revenue neutral things calculated.

Lamb told the commissioners that Linn County was up almost $13 million in value this year, and it actually came from locally assessed values this year because the state assessed value went down about $6 million.

Lamb said the state-assessed values included those for the power plant, railroads, pipelines and phone companies. But, he said, the change was at the power plant.

“The Evergy Metro half of the business went up about $4 million but the Evergy Kansas South went down about $10 million,” said Lamb.

Linn County Treasurer Janet Kleweno presented the $268,000 Treasurer’s Office budget for 2024 amounting to a nearly $39,000 increase from last year. Kleweno said her budget went up because of extra employee’s wages and her publication costs went up.

Kleweno told the commissioners that her office runs the same way every year because she has to follow statutes. She said that she needed another employee to have them trained for when she retires so whoever gets the treasurer’s job is not left without an employee.

She said her contractual expenses went up because of the publication costs are going up but that commodities expenses went down because she has quite a bit of supplies on hand.

“Is publication something you can contract with the newspaper?” asked Commission Chair Danny McCullough. Kleweno said that the Linn County News just sets the price and she has been notified that it will go up next year.

“Or actually, it went up this year, but (publisher Jackie Taylor) is going to work with me for the August publication,” said Kleweno.

Kleweno told the commissioners that the county’s earned interest is going up, from $1,500 last year to $14,000 this year.

Kleweno expressed another concern.

“I’ve heard you are going to move us out of the courthouse. Do we have any finalization of what is going on? I would really like to stay where I am,” said Kleweno.

McCullough told her that nothing had been finalized.

“I’d like to see us get to moving forward,” said Kleweno.

Commissioner Jason Hightower asked Kleweno how the new treasurer would feel about the office space in there? You’ve seen how fast we have been moving on this.

Kleweno said she thinks if everything moves out of the courthouse, it will die.

McCullough said the building was on the historical register, so it had to be kept up.

The commissioners tentatively approved the Treasurer’s 2024 budget.

In a discussion toward the end of the meeting, McCullough said he knew that the way Kleweno did her budget was how they have always been done. However, he said he did not know if he was going to be able to approve any more budgets without some kind of narrative about what they do and more specific information.

There’s a lot of stuff we’ve missed throughout the years, like the airport and the taxes we have paid Pleasanton, said McCullough.

“I don’t think a budget is just numbers to me,” said McCullough.

Lamb said he was unclear to what McCullough wanted. He said the county clerk’s office duties were listed like 900 times in state statutes. He asked how they would go through all of that.

County Counselor Gary Thompson says at times in the past the commissioners have asked for a written justification if a department were going to vary its budget a significant amount.

McCullough brought up questions about the historical society and where that money goes. He asked how did the county even got to that number.

McCullough then brought up the juvenile intake center that the county pays $65,000 a year.

Sheriff Kevin Friend told the commissioners that the county had been in a contract with the Southeast Kansas Juvenile Justice Center since 1996 or 1997. Friend said that in 2021 the county used them for two nights or $30,000 per night. There are cheaper ways to do it.

Commissioner Jim Johnson said he knew that Anderson County used two places to house juveniles and asked Friend how they guaranteed a bed. Friend said he had been talking to the Wyandotte County juvenile facility where the cost per night is $150.

Friend said that was one budget the county might look at. He said the county might be better off just to work on a nightly basis with some places like Wyandotte County. He pointed out that the most Linn County had ever used the juvenile center was one year in the last five years.

During that year, Linn County had used the center 59 nights, which cost them $700 or $800 per night.

Friend said he thought the county would be better off to work with two or three facilities like that on a nightly cost.

Kleweno returned to the meeting and McCullough explained that he considered a budget an outline of how each office operates.

County Counselor Gary Thompson told McCullough that this form that the departments use now is the one recommended by the state. Thompson said part of the issue is that on the budgets for elected officials, all they are really required to do is to say is “Here is what I need to run my department.”

Hightower said he thought what McCullough was talking about was a strategy or strategic plan. He said he thought the department heads need to have this done before it is budget time. This cannot happen now.

McCullough said that he had been saying this since he had been on the commission.

Johnson said that there were certain budgets like the treasurer’s that the commission did not have any control over at all.

Johnson said maybe it was his fault but he did not take enough time to research everything and expected information to be brought to him by department heads. He said he didn’t take the time to do all of that, and maybe that was his problem

Johnson said that all the commissioners have signed off on things without noticing things like the taxes at the airport. Maybe the commissioners need to pay more attention to the claims.

The county has to find funds somewhere because the county has agreed to fund the Southeastern Technical Academy for Rural Students (STARS) program, said McCullough.

Johnson said that STARS program was given quite a bit of money and he did not see too much paperwork on it. The county just funded that thing.

McCullough said it was probably one of the most important things in the county to him.

“Because it’s important to me, the kids in this county are important,” said McCullough.

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