Commissioners prepare to dig into county budget work

Saturday, June 29, 2013

As commissioners move closer to preparing the 2014 Bourbon County budget, the lion's share of Friday's Bourbon County Commission meeting was spent on getting a little clearer picture of exactly what they are dealing with.

County Appraiser Judy Wallis told commissioners that preliminary estimates show a drop in valuation for personal property in the county, but warned commissioners those early estimates could go up, down or remain the same. According to Wallis, the estimated valuation in the county this year is $91,030,500, down about 5.4 percent, or $490,934 from last year's $91,521,434.

Wallis said although real estate appears to be making a comeback, southeast Kansas isn't going up as fast as some areas of the nation.

"Southeast Kansas isn't going up as fast, but we didn't go down as fast either," Wallis said.

She added that Bourbon County is still seeing a lot of foreclosures and a law exempting taxation of new machines and equipment such as those installed in the new McDonald's are some of the reasons for the dip in the estimated valuation.

"We have been losing ground on personal property since July 2006," Wallis told commissioners.

She also said the April 7 hailstorm did not alter the valuations much and that it is important to realize that putting new siding or roofs on a house does not increase its valuation.

"Houses had siding and roofs when the hailstorm occurred," Wallis said. "Installing new ones is not going to raise the valuation."

She said that adding extras over and above what the house had before the storm would increase the valuation, but mass appraisals do not take into account a new roof to replace one that was there before.

"Mass appraisal is just that," Wallis said. "We are dealing with market values on a large scale. Deferred maintenance is when the valuation goes down."

If the preliminary valuation estimates stay true, commissioners will have a hefty challenge ahead as they prepare the 2014 budget. In an already tight budget that is exacerbated by an unfunded state mandate for concealed carry (see related story), the commission will certainly have a crash course in doing much more with far less.

In other budget related items, County Treasurer Susan Quick presented a preliminary budget to commissioners. She said the lease on her printer is up, but her office may opt to purchase the printer for $1,000 and pay a $700 per month maintenance fee, which includes toner. The budget did not include salaries, which she said in the past were not included in her budget request. Commissioners asked if she could get those numbers from County Clerk Kendell Mason and include them in the budget. She said salaries last year for her office totaled about $180,000.

County Attorney Terri Johnson said her department's budget should be ready by Monday. She suggested the county develop a long-range maintenance plan for all county buildings. She also said she believed that maintenance on her offices should not come out of her budget, but from a general fund.

"I understand," Commission Chairman Allen Warren said. "I just don't know where the money is going to come from. I suggest there needs to be a maintenance fund not tied to any specific building."

In other business:

* Commissioners heard from Becky Gray, senior associate director of research, planning, and grant development for Southeast Kansas Community Action Program (SEK-CAP), told commissioners her budget was cut from about $800,000 to approximately $200,000. She said she was looking for ways to work in conjunction with other entities to provide services, including working with communities' economic development activities. Commissioner Barbara Albright said she would like to see something in the area of job training materialize in the county.

* Commissioners met in executive session for 15 minutes with Wallis to discuss matters relating to non-elected personnel. No action was taken.

* Commissioners told Shane Walker, county Geographic Information Services, to look into a company that works to save local entities money on their phone bills and as payment, keeps only 50 percent of what they save the customer. Walker said he believed the county already got the lowest rate, a "fed rate," but he would look into it. Last year, the county's phone bills were about $30,000 with a plan that allotted 6,000 long distance minutes per month. All county department's phone bills will now be removed from individual department's budgets and put on Walker's budget as AT&T works to install a new T-1 system. He said the system should be installed in about 30 days.

* Commissioners met for 20 minutes in executive session with Johnson to discuss matters pertaining to non-elected personnel. No action was taken.

* Warren suggested all commissions who could, should attend an open house for Enbridge, who will soon begin installation of a massive pipeline that will dissect the northwest corner of the county. The meeting is July 18 in Iola at the North Community Building.