Commission hopes to trim budget

Commissioners continued budget work this week in an attempt to revise and trim excess expenditures. They also discussed how to spend the wind farm PILOT funds and a sales tax proposal.


Local News

July 3, 2024 - 1:45 PM

Auditor Rodney Burns, right, discusses the budget with Allen County Commissioners Tuesday morning. At left is Bob Johnson, county attorney. Photo by Sarah Haney / Iola Register

Allen County Commissioners began examining the county’s proposed budget Tuesday morning, with the help of auditor Rodney Burns, in an effort to revise it and trim excess expenditures. Burns noted that the county’s expenditures had increased $1.5 million from the previous year. In addition, the county’s valuation went up approximately $13.5 million since last year.

Burns informed commissioners that income from interest collected on idle funds has far exceeded expectations so far this year. Last year’s gains on interest rates were about $900,000 on money invested in certificates of deposit and in the county’s checking account. This year, only six months in, higher interest rates have garnered around $100,000 a month resulting in nearly $700,000 in income. Commissioner Bruce Symes urged caution, noting they have to consider that rates are expected to drop. “We have to assume they will,” said Commissioner Jerry Daniels in agreement.

In the county’s 2024 budget, $300,000 is earmarked as anticipated income from interest on idle funds. Since this year’s rates have produced more, Symes questioned whether bumping that number up for this year would be a good idea. “If we change that $300,000 to $1 million interest on idle funds, that helps our budget process by giving carryover?” asked Symes. Burns confirmed and explained, “You’ll carry over more, and that gives you more revenue for next year.”

SYMES expressed that he would like to see the county support the Allen County Animal Rescue Facility (ACARF). Currently, ACARF is operating $3,500 short each month. After discussion on the amount, the commissioners agreed to give $24,000 for the year out of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) funds paid by the Prairie Queen Wind Farm. “This is with the intent to continue each year based on budgetary discussions and requirements,” said Commissioner David Lee in his motion.

The commission also discussed two more items that will be funded with PILOT funds — $65,000 for new consoles for 911 dispatch and $200,000 for the ongoing airport project. By funding all three items through PILOT, Symes noted that the county would be taking them off of the budget.

Other areas where the commissioners saw an opportunity to potentially save money would be by reducing the budget for noxious weed chemicals by $10,000 and reducing the county’s contribution to the Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center. Symes added that the mental health center receives assistance from multiple counties and the amount they requested isn’t mandated. The center’s request to the county is $167,038, an increase of $6,000 from the previous year.

“It’s something for us to think about,” said Symes. “I’m not necessarily advocating not funding their proposed increase. This is obviously a very needed service. But, it’s our discretion.”

Commissioners agreed to discuss budget revisions further at next week’s meeting.

Commissioners Bruce Symes, from left, David Lee and Jerry Daniels listen to auditor Rodney Burns as he explains items in the budget. Photo by Sarah Haney / Iola Register

IN OTHER NEWS, John Stranghoner approached the commission with concerns about county work being completed on his property without notification to him. “I found out, just last week, that they replaced a bridge down on Nebraska Road and they did some work on my property,” said Stranghoner. He explained that as an engineering technician for KDOT, he inspects bridges and is certified through K-State. “So, I’m kind of aware of some of this new construction that goes on. I feel it’s wrong that as a landowner and taxpayer, I was never notified of any of this construction that was going on.”

Interim Road and Bridges Director Jeremy Hopkins said the project began before he took leadership of the department. “I was under the impression that it was the adjoining landowner,” he said. “That landowner has been in the process the whole time, that’s why I was under the impression that it was his land.”

Dirt was removed from Stranghoner’s land, creating what he deemed a “pond,” and moved to an adjoining landowner’s property. The commission and Hopkins apologized and agreed the best course of action was to correct the mistake by putting Stranghoner’s land back the way it was previously and replace the dirt.

The commission discussed a proposed half cent sales tax for Emergency Medical Services (EMS). The sales tax would generate approximately $1.2 million and is intended to draw down property taxes by the same amount.

Currently, the county sales tax sits at 1.25%. A quarter percent goes to Allen County Regional Hospital; a half percent goes to solid waste; and the other half percent goes to the general fund. The proposed EMS tax would raise the county sales tax to 1.75%. When added to the state’s 6.5% and the City of Iola’s 1%, Iolans would see their total sales taxes increase from 8.75% to 9.25%.

The communities of LaHarpe and Gas would see the same increase. Humboldt, with a city sales tax of 1.75%, would have a total sales tax of 10% with the increase. Moran, with a city sales tax of .5%, would have a total sales tax of 8.75%.

Lee motioned that the commission “take to the citizens of Allen County a proposed half cent sales tax to go towards EMS.” The commissioners unanimously approved. County Clerk Shannon Patterson noted that a resolution will need to be drafted and approved by the commission before it can be placed on the ballot. “This will get the ball rolling, though,” said Symes.

August 15, 2012
July 18, 2012
July 28, 2011
July 21, 2010