Archive for Thursday, August 25, 2005

County commissioners ‘hold line’ on ‘06 budget

August 25, 2005

The Leavenworth County Commission has approved a 2006 budget that trims nearly 2.8 mills from last year's property tax levy.

In doing so, the county joins the city of Lansing and Lansing school district in lowering the mill levy in next year's budget.

County commissioners on Monday unanimously adopted the $45.8 million budget, which is up 9.6 percent from the current year's spending plan.

But 3rd District Commissioner Dean Oroke pointed out that despite the overall increase in the budget, the amount of tax dollars to be levied would be up just $140,000 compared to this year.

"So even though we had a large increase in expenditures, the tax dollars we're levying is a very small portion of that increase," he said.

The levy required to fund the 2006 budget is estimated to be 36.095 mills, down from the 38.868 mills property owners were charged last year. A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 in assessed valuation.

In Kansas, residential property is assessed at 11.5 percent of fair market value, so the owner of a home valued at $150,000 will pay about $623 in property taxes to fund next year's county budget. That's down $47 from what the owner of a $150,000 home would have paid a year ago.

"I think we did a really good job of trying to hold the line," said Clyde Graeber, commission chairman.

Commissioners received some help in doing so. The budget will include about $2.4 million in carryover to the general fund from this year.

"This is a zero-based budget, so next year you may not have that $2.4 million going into 2007," said Steve Wagner, a certified public accountant who advises the commission on its budget.

Also easing the mill levy is a countywide increase in assessed valuation of more than $38 million. Total valuation now is $489.2 million, compared with $450.7 million a year ago.

Included in the budget are funds for a professional county administrator. Both Graeber and Oroke said during last year's commission campaigns they were interested in looking into hiring a professional administrator. First District Commissioner Don Navinsky noted funding for a professional administrator was included in this year's budget; whether the commission hires an administrator in 2006, he said, remained to be seen.

Other areas of the budget that will see increased spending include the employee benefits fund, up 6.9 percent to $4.37 million; road and bridge fund, up 2.7 percent to $6.47 million; and elderly services, up 9.9 percent to $1.29 million.

Commissioners will set aside $1.9 million in their general capital improvement reserve fund. The amount was not lost on Graeber, who said he thought the commission could have lowered the mill levy even more by cutting the amount held in reserve.

"But I know there are projects out there that we are currently facing," he said.

Tax statements will go out to property owners later this year, with first-half taxes due in December.

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