County Commission approves 9-mill tax increase
Despite facing public opposition, the Leavenworth County Commission unanimously approved a nine-mill increase for the 2002 budget.
According to the budget figures, the total expenditures for the 2002 budget will be an estimated $38,125,738, up from the $32,623,956 spent in 2001.
The current mill levy for the county is 32.031. The increase will raise the mill levy to 41.138 in 2002.
Leavenworth County resident Robert Richardson said he was upset about the increases and argued that the county is spending more money that it has.
"I am a 10-year resident and I am being taxed out of my house," Richardson said. "What is going to happen to me next year?"
Another issue argued by Richardson was the county's continuance of running Broadway Heights, a county convalescent home. Richardson said the infirmary should be closed and the patients should be sent to a private institution.
Budget figures indicate that the county expects to spend $2,428,671 in 2001 on the infirmary. According to the 2002 budget, that number will grow to $3,477, 240.
County Commissioner Bob Adams said he was against the county getting rid of the infirmary.
"We need a way to take care of our youth and we also need to take care of our residents that are elderly," Adams said.
The County Commissioners cited several reasons for the mill increase. Among those reasons was an emphasis on repairing and improving roads in the county, increasing the amount spent on employee benefits and an increase in natural reserves such as gas and electricity.
According to the budget, there is approximately $5 million set out for road and bridge improvements in the county in 2002, up from $4 million in 2001.
Another financial burden the commissioners said they had to bear was approximately $1 million on flood relief to residents of the county.
County Commissioner Joe Daniels said the county has continued to give relief to the city of Easton, which was flooded earlier in the summer.
County Commissioner Don Navinsky said the commission did not take the increase lightly and that this budget year was one of the toughest he had ever been through.
"It saddens me with some of the things we have had to do," Navinsky said. "I don't feel happy with what we have done but I feel relieved. I felt we did it the only way we felt we could."
Adams agreed with Navinsky and also said he wasn't happy about raising taxes.
"This is a process we go through every year and I am sorry to say that this year there will be a tax increase," Adams said.
According to the Kansas League of Municipalities, the budget year for 2002 was expected to be more difficult that in recent years because of sales taxes leveling off, investment earnings falling and increasing health insurance costs.
"We are trying to meet a need and carry on," Daniels said. "It has been a tough process, but we are trying to be as fiscally sound as we can."