County approves budget despite pushback

County commissioners approved the budget for the coming year, but multiple residents spoke in protest that their taxes were too high.

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September 1, 2021 - 9:57 AM

Resident Larry Macha appeals to Allen County commissioners to recalculate their annual budget. Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

(Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to show that Dick Works of Humboldt commended county commissioners for having “held the line pretty well,” in regards to their budget. A previous version confused him with those critical of their management.)

Commissioners have approved Allen County’s budget for the coming year.

But it wasn’t without some push-back.

Multiple residents attended Tuesday’s meeting lamenting that their taxes were too high.

Resident Larry Macha, for example, spoke about “wants versus needs,” suggesting the county was spending too much on the former. Macha shared data from the Kansas Policy Institute, comparing Iola/Allen County’s tax rates to other states and counties. (The KPI is a right-wing think tank whose goals include eliminating income taxes, cutting corporate taxes and privatizing public education.)

Clerk Sherrie Riebel hands commissioner Bruce Symes documents.Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

Commissioner Jerry Daniels defended the commission, saying, “we did lower the mill levy. We haven’t raised anything.”

He also pointed out specific valuation numbers assigned by state and federal authorities, such that local officials cannot make modifications.

Commissioner Bruce Symes said he felt that the county had done its due diligence regarding the budget as well, and noted that many departments had even made cuts on their own, without commissioners having to step in.

By contrast, commissioner David Lee suggested he was willing to reconsider the budget’s details, as he ultimately voted against approval. For example, he suggested that the county’s transportation programs were “wants” as opposed to “needs,” and might ultimately be eliminated.

Despite Lee’s hesitancy, Daniels and Symes had the votes to pass the budget in its current form, 2-1.

IN OTHER NEWS, Thrive Allen County’s economic development director, Jonathon Goering, spoke with commissioners about deadlines for Requests for Qualifications (RFQs) regarding the airport layout plan.

He also mentioned that, according to recent data, the airport generates around $768,000 per year in revenues.

Additionally, Goering introduced commissioners to Caleb Coletrain from Garver’s aviation group, who provided additional information on the airport improvement plan.

Dick Works of Humboldt asked commissioners to consider purchasing a new site for the Humboldt Senior Center, which continues to experience structural problems, including water in the basement.

Works said a former funeral home in town would be a “good investment.” Its price tag is $130,000.

RESIDENT Tom Nevans told commissioners that plans were taking shape to make improvements to the veterans memorial on the courthouse lawn.

He also asked commissioners about the possibility of providing $800 to purchase flags/emblems for Iola’s cemeteries for veterans’ graves, to be displayed on Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

RESIDENT Sharlyn Thompson, president of the LaHarpe City Council, spoke with commissioners about the possibility of providing American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to make improvements to the city’s sewer system.

She estimated the total cost of the project at over $1 million, and although commissioners did not award any money at this time, added Thompson to the already-growing list of entities across Allen County needing assistance.

PUBLIC works director Mitch Garner said that chip-seal repairs had been completed on the Elsmore/Savonburg Road. He also listed several other areas of the county slated for repairs.

Garner said that a couple of the county’s mowers were down.

He also spoke briefly with commissioners about improving highway shoulders in the area around the current detour in Moran.

Commissioners voted 2-1, with Symes dissenting, to provide alcohol permits for a fundraiser connected to the Bourbon County VFW, but slated to take place partly in Allen County.

The fundraiser is a “Poker Run,” where participants are driven from location to location, attempting to complete a winning poker hand.

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