OLATHE, Kan. — On Thursday, the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) voted 5-2 to approve next year’s budget.
The $1.6 billion budget reflects roughly $1.1 billion earmarked for expenditures and $488 million in reserve funds.
“I feel like it addresses what the community needs. It is fiscally responsible and also looks out for our workforce and organization,” County Manager Penny Postoak Ferguson said.
The budget sets the 2023 tax rate at 24.542 mills, including 17.725 mills for the county taxing district, 3.804 mills for the library taxing district and 3.013 mills for the parks and recreation taxing district.
A mill represents one one-thousandth of a dollar. That comes out to about $1 of taxes for every $1,000 a property is valued. The rate represents roughly a 1 mill reduction compared to the 2022 budget.
Despite a mill levy reduction, Johnson County homeowners will likely end up paying more in taxes due to increased property valuations.
“While lowering the mill levy beyond the currently proposed decrease of 1 mill sounds good on the surface, there will be long-term consequences to our county’s ability to fund necessary future projects,” County Resident Claire Reagan said Thursday.
The budget covers all county services and includes roughly $264 million for the Capital Improvement Program. Those funds will be used for things like upgrades to wastewater infrastructure, stormwater management and Parks and Recreation projects.
Commissioners Michael Ashcraft and Charlotte O’Hara voted against the 2023 budget.
“I meet a lot of people who express concerns, not that the services we provide are not adequate or even very good, but the cost of those services,” Ashcraft said. “They argue that they want us to be more in-tune with the strains and stresses that they are living under, particularly in the last couple years.”
During Thursday’s meeting, Ashcraft made a motion to amend the proposed budget by rolling back the tax rate by an additional mill and using funds from the America Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to offset the remaining balance. That motion failed due to a lack of support from a majority of the board.
“When you use one-time money to make long-term decisions, then you are only postponing another year down the road and you’re probably looking at a significant increase in the mill levy,” BOCC Chair Ed Eilert said.
O’Hara said she feels the sheriff’s department has not been adequately funded.
“To me we need to figure out how we are going to stabilize our current staffing and then go forward in adding officers. It’s going to be a revolving door out if we don’t get adequate funds available for the Sheriff’s Office,” O’Hara said.
Despite the recent approval of retention bonuses for deputies, Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden said staffing within the department is pushing critical levels.
“I am begging staff and the chairman to get this done, because I am 60 [employees] down today. It showed yesterday I’ve got 22 officers ready to go. If I lose 82 people, this county is at risk,” Hayden said.
The board is tentatively scheduled to review funding for the Sheriff’s Department during a committee of the whole meeting on Thursday, Sept. 15.
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