Next year’s county budget wasn’t on the agenda Monday, but commissioners engaged in early forecasting that painted a dim view for planning.
“I think we’re all concerned what the state of Kansas is doing,” Commissioner Randy Dallke said. “I’d almost like to present the same budget we had again next year.”
“If we have the same budget next year as this, the mill levy would have to go up,” Commission Chairman Dan Holub said. “We’re going to have to take a long hard look at everything.”
The unscheduled discussion arose when clerk Tina Spencer requested that commissioners encourage all department heads to meet with the county’s budget consultant. Dallke questioned the need for doing so if most budgets remained the same.
“Why spend a day with all the departments?” Dallke said. “Bring in the departments that have something going on.”
Some programs could disappear, Holub said, depending on their funding sources.
“Anything funded by grants, if that grant goes away, that program is probably going away, because it just isn’t there,” he said.
Dallke said emergency medical services, with the high cost of ambulance equipment and volunteer staffing issues, should be scrutinized. He suggested a scaled down full-time ambulance service should be examined.
Holub said the transition to such a service would be difficult, and could require using ambulances from other counties as backups, even with long response times.
“I don’t know that neighboring counties would pick up our load,” Dallke said. “There are another couple departments we’ve got to look at, but that one can be an expensive one.”
Holub said the county shouldn’t expect assistance from the state, pointing to a third consecutive shortfall in state revenue collections versus forecasted amounts.
“Can we buy lottery tickets for the public good?” Holub asked. “We have better odds for that than getting help from the state.”
Spencer brought the conversation back to her original question.
“So what do you want me to tell the departments,” Spencer said.
“Hold their budgets, it may be cut even further,” Dallke said.
“I would save every dime we have,” Holub said.
Economic Development Director Teresa Huffman updated commissioners on plans for county participation in the 150th anniversary of the Chisholm Trail. She displayed a promotional poster on which Durham is highlighted, although the town’s name won’t appear in other promotional materials, she said.
“I’ve met with the people in Durham,” Huffman said. “They’re very excited about it and want to work on it. They want it downtown, they don’t want it out at the site (a farm where remnants of the trail are visible).”
Huffman wants to places kiosks in Goessel, Durham, and Tampa with maps and promotional materials, she said.
The department’s microloan program passed a state audit, but Huffman said finding people that qualify for the low interest business loans has been difficult.
“We have $65,000 available,” Huffman said. “Fifty-one percent of the people and employees have to be low-to-moderate income, and that kind of hobbles you. It’s kind of hard to find people who want to start a business that are low-to-moderate income.”
In other business:
- Commissioners decided to make a counter-offer for the purchase of Bobcat skid steer from White Star Machinery of Wichita, asking for the use of a used skid steer for free until a new one is available in October.
- Department on Aging Director Gayla Ratzlaff reported the Florence Florentines senior group has officially disbanded.
- Commissioners and Road and Bridge Superintendent Randy Crawford met in executive session for 15 minutes to discuss personnel issues. Dallke called for the session following a discussion about teamwork among department supervisors.