County commissioners make efforts to avoid potential budget election

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It appears the Riley County Commission has avoided an election for its proposed 2020 budget, but an increase in the mill levy is still likely.

The commission picked back up on their 2020 budget work session during their meeting Monday.  Budget and Finance Officer Tami Robison brought the updated list of appropriation adjustments made by the commission and department heads.  This led to a $250,000 decrease to what was originally presented.  The overall personnel adjustment total with the voluntary cuts had a decrease of $161,013.

Other recommendations include the $26,269 decrease for the indigent panel request within the General Fund. The Budget and Planning Committee recommended $230,000 from the Health Department’s $300,000 funds be moved back to the general fund to increase the beginning unencumbered cash balance. This will lower the ad valorem tax requirements.  In addition to this adjustment, they recommend the CIP transfer by $100,000 and the Economic Development transfer by $10,000. 

With the appropriation adjustments, voluntary cuts and other recommendations the ad valorem tax required is $28.31 million.  This would bring the proposed budget below the maximum allowed by 1,384 dollars. This is a 2.182 mill increase from the 2019 budgeted mill levy.
“We are below the tax lid so we don’t need to have an election, but I can’t emphasize enough that the farther you done below that amount will penalize you in out years,” says Vargo, “As you make reductions remember; that money is gone, you cannot recapture that.”
Health Department Director Jennifer Green then weighed in on the health department transfer.  She wanted the commissioners to leave 100 thousand dollars in the fund for any future expenses with their new electronic health record. Commissioner Ron Wells says they just aren’t able to do it.
“Right at the moment, unless we found somewhere else to get that is going to force us to have $60,000 special election that may or may not pass,” says Wells, “I don’t find anything wrong with what your saying, but right now we’re only at $1,384.”
Green urged the commission by reminding them the health department had kept their budget requests flat for the last five to six years. County Clerk Rich Vargo assured her they won’t let the department go in the red.  Since the health department is part of the general fund, they would allow a budget amendment if they violate the budget. They would also be able to request CIP funds as well.
After the discussion, Wells says while he would have liked the levy to remain flat, they can’t afford to make anymore cuts.
“I’ve been here long enough to know what’s coming.  If we start cutting this more now, some poor commissioner is going to go to have to play catch like I did when I started,” says Wells.
When it comes to the salaries for the budget, Wells also says the employees are treated very well and paid adequately.
The commissioners will continue their budget talks on Monday by looking at the difference in cost of living adjustments. The commission would like the see the difference between a 1.9% and 1.6% COLA.
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