Conservation district could get ax
Facing more than $2 million in revenue shortfall this year, the Leavenworth County Commissioners have been looking to tighten their belts before preparing the 2010 budget.
In one case the belt could cinch up an entire department.
During a recent budget hearing, Susan Garrett, district manager for the Leavenworth County Conservation District, proposed a $37,000 budget for her department, but she was met with some resistance and was told her department could be eliminated from the budget.
She said commissioners did not want to fund the conservation district because they didn’t want to use any more money than they had to, thereby avoiding raising taxes while still increasing county employee pay by 2 percent.
“If they completely cut funding from us we’ll get no funding from the state, which means we’ll have no money to operate,” Garrett said.
The conservation district runs each year with about an $80,000 annual budget that is made up of $37,000 from the county, $25,000 in matching state grants, and the difference made up from various other grants. If the county were to eliminate its portion of the budget, the district would not be eligible for the matching state grants.
Commissioner J.C. Tellefson said he wasn’t against the conservation district, but felt some work it does for education is already being done by the Leavenworth County Extension Office, and design and planning for things such as terraces and waterways is done by the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“I want to fine-tune every department so there are no redundancies, so everybody’s needs are met,” Tellefson said.
“Some people will say they will just raise the mill. That is one of those things that we don’t want to do.”
Tellefson estimated that a six-mill increase would cover the revenue shortfall for the county, but he and the other commissioners would not approve that.
Right now the status of the department is in limbo as the county continues preparing the 2010 budget.
Tellefson said that he has heard from constituents in the county who are for and against funding the conservation district.
Greg Foley, of the State Conservation Commission, has been invited to speak to the commissioners at 9:30 a.m. Thursday to provide more information before any budgetary decisions are made.
Foley said that even his department has already experienced some cuts, but to his knowledge, this was the first he’s heard of a county commission wanting to eliminate its soil conservation department.
“We understand that we are in tough times and we are trying to be as efficient with what we are being provided,” Foley said.