OSWEGO — Labette County commissioners will begin discussing the 2020 budget this week.
On Monday, commissioners scheduled a budget work session for Thursday and scheduled two other work sessions: July 19 and July 24. Other work sessions could take place the last week in July. Budget sessions will begin at 8 a.m. in the lower level of the courthouse in Oswego.
Commissioners Doug Allen, Fred Vail and Lonie Addis each said they do not want to raise taxes. The mill levy, a $1 tax on every $1,000 in assessed valuation, raises money for most county funds. It’s remained relative steady over the last few years, though spending has increased because the overall county valuation increased so each mill levied brought in more cash.
This year’s total budget is $15,431,355, about half of which is supported by property taxes. The state tax lid law limits tax increases in municipality budgets from year to year. The county’s mill rate for 2019 was set at 61.664, which is down about two-tenths of a mill from the 2018 rate of 61.815.
Commissioner Allen mentioned he would like to reduce spending, too.
Commissioners agreed that county employees would not get pay increases in 2020.
Allen said he would like commissioners to look out five years at bigger expenses. Commissioners have discussed what to do with the county’s quarry operation, which has aging equipment that is expensive to replace.
Vail said he would like to look at outsourcing some county operations to save money on salaries. Salaries and benefits to employees are the biggest chunk of the county budget. He also suggested that when an employee retires, that department should consider not replacing that person and absorbing his or her duties with existing staff.
Also on Monday the commissioners heard from Oswego City Clerk Carol Eddington that the Oswego City Council would reconsider Monday night its neighborhood revitalization program after hearing about issues the city’s plan creates for County Appraiser DeLinda White and her staff.
The NRP provides property tax rebates for improvements to residential and commercial structures within certain areas of Parsons, Oswego and Chetopa. These three communities are the only ones in Labette County that have NRPs in place.
Parsons has four neighborhood revitalization plans. One works for commercial properties in the northern part of the city in the area of the U.S. 400 and U.S. 59 junction. The older program will expire this year and allows commercial and residential property owners in specific areas to get 90% tax rebates on additional property tax tied to improvements. The third and fourth programs relate to historic structures. The NRP encourages property owners to build new structures or add to existing structures by giving them tax relief for five years.
The county commission would like to extend the tax break to commercial projects for 10 years and leave the residential tax break at five years. They also hoped Oswego and Chetopa would modify their plans so that the same plan could be marketed for each community.
Eddington learned last month that the city of Oswego’s 10 different NRPs created confusion in the appraiser’s office on which plan applied to a property that sought the rebate.
She said she would recommend to the council a plan more uniform with Parsons’ and Chetopa’s NRPs.
In other matters, the commission:
— Allowed County Attorney Stephen Jones and Deputy County Attorney Mandy Johnson to attend continuing legal education out of state. Jones’ class on forensic evidence will be in New Orleans in December. Johnson’s class on domestic violence will be in Arizona in late September and early October.
— Received updates on the moisture problems at the Labette County Judicial Center in Parsons, particularly in District Judge Fred W. Johnson’s courtroom. Water is collecting on electronics in the courtroom overnight and on the carpet and the courtroom has a definite odor because of the excess moisture. The county maintenance supervisor noticed that a panel on an air conditioning unit on the roof was blown off, so he replaced it and changed out filters and hoped that would fix the moisture problem. Dehumidifiers are operating in the courtroom.
— Met in closed session for an attorney-client discussion. No action followed.