County will need to cut budgets to meet $140,000 shortfall

The Marion County Commission decided Monday it needs a meeting in May with all county department heads to discuss budget economizing in the face of a $140,000 shortfall this year, and perhaps worse next year.

The primary cause of the shortfall was the decision of the state not to provide counties and cities with all funds they were promised. Commissioners saw it as a 20- to 30-year history of the state going back on promises to local government in order to hang onto tax money.

Commissioner Leroy Wetta said local governments were asked to support the sales taxes the money comes from in order to “pay down on” or decrease the amount of property taxes paid.

Now, he said, the state “welshed out,” leaving county governments either to economize or increase the very property taxes the state promised to help reduce.

In agreeing with Wetta, Commissioner Howard Collett said the state is keeping the law in sending the county share of road taxes from fuel sales that helps fund the road and bridge department.

County Clerk Carol Maggard and the commissioners commended County Treasurer Jeannine Bateman for doing her part to help by turning over the $55,869.44 in vehicle funds left from 2002 to the county general fund.

Collett said Bateman and former Marion County treasurers have a history of turning the funds over from such things as registrations, but under the law they don’t have to. In some other counties, he said, the funds are used to build bureaucracies within treasurers’ departments.

At the close of business on April 30, Maggard said the county had $1,606,222.30 in the general fund, $1,108,368.17 in the road and bridge fund, and cash on hand, which can include money destined for cities and school districts, of $6,713,044.75.

Adding a little to budget concerns, Maggard said that in response to the Florida voting debacle, the federal government through the state government in the time period 2004 to 2008 may be mandating and offering partial funding for computerized voting machines.

Depending how many of the $3,000 to $6,000 machines the county gets, and how much the county has to spend, she said she may be faced with eventual consolidation of polling places.

Maggard said consolidation is difficult when some small precincts have high voter turnout, and the long distances in the county could discourage added travel.

The state is mandating that all 105 Kansas counties use the same software in the voting machines, she said.

David Brazil, sanitarian, planning and zoning, and transfer station director, recommended to the commissioners that, as a result of unspecified communications they all have received, they meet by teleconference in executive session next week with Jim Kaup, Topeka attorney for the county on solid waste matters.

Brazil told commissioners the planning commission made a successful trip to the Gray County wind farm at Montezuma last week to obtain information for writing the county plan.

The commissioners endorsed a requested letter from Brazil to Kent Foerster, chief of marketing and development for the Kansas Bureau of Waste Management, acknowledging that grant money given to KC Development, former owner of the county transfer station, had been used to enhance the facility for future recycling.

Michele Abbott-Becker, director of communications and emergency management, said either a straight wind or a tornado tore down power lines and trees, and damaged buildings in Burns Saturday night, with the police chief there tracing a 13-mile-long path on into the countryside.

Abbott-Becker said, as has been county policy, she checked to see that the City of Burns, volunteer help and the power company could clean up the mess, and helped check to see that residents were OK before leaving.

The commissioners voted 3-0 to approve a mutual aid and damage assessment agreement between the county and its cities that will give county aid when cities exhaust resource, and, in case of disaster, help get federal funds.

The commissioners authorized changing the name of the county emergency management office to Emergency Management and Homeland Security to assist in getting homeland security funding.

Abbott-Becker said the state is reducing its aid on the Kansas Bureau of Investigation line for license and criminal background checks to increase the county share from $114 to $314 a month.

JoAnn Knak, emergency medical services director, reported 56 ambulance calls for April, 25 from Hillsboro, 21 from Marion, six from Peabody and four from Tampa.

There were five transfers, five cardiacs, 19 medical emergencies, seven stand-bys, three vehicle accidents, eight falls, five no transports and four rescue truck incidents.

There were four first-responder calls, two from Goessel, one from Lincolnville, and one from Burns.

Knak has been conducting DUI consequence programs, and cardiac and respiratory programs in the schools.

She said the current EMS class had a contrived experience responding by ambulance to a “set up” patient, and also watched their own performances on videotape.

The commissioners approved $549 to replace the printer used for mapping in the appraiser’s office with a two-year extended warranty program. County Appraiser Dianna Carter said the printers don’t often last beyond two years.

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