OSWEGO — Labette County commissioners on Monday approved the county’s 2020 $15.4 million budget after a public hearing that lasted only seconds because no one showed up to ask questions.

The county will levy a tax of 61.635 mills to support the 2020 budget. This year’s levy is 61.639 mills. The difference to a taxpayer will be nearly imperceptible, as long as his or her property value didn’t change.

A mill is a $1 tax for every $1,000 in assessed value. So the owner of a $50,000 home in the county will pay $354.40 next year to support the county’s operations, a decrease of about 2 cents from what that homeowner paid this year.

The county’s total spending for 2020 will be $15,487,527. This year’s total spending is $15,228,655. Next year’s budget will be supported by $8,464,854 in property tax revenue.

Commissioners discussed the budget at a previous meeting. County employees will get step increases but cost of living adjustments will not be coming in 2020. Spending remained relatively steady across all departments with increases in jail operations because of the increased number of inmates that the jail is holding, feeding and doctoring. Other departments saw modest increases based on projects and equipment needs.

Commissioner Fred Vail is concerned that the county’s frugal budgeting may cause harm in the future, but commissioners have not wanted to increase the mill levy of late and didn’t want to increase spending this year in addition.

“We’re either going to look smart or dumb, depending on what happens,” Commission Chairman Doug Allen said.

Commissioners approved the 2020 budget as published. The actually mill levy won’t be final until values are finalized in November.

Commissioners then had a brief public hearing on special district budgets. No one attended the hearing, so commissioners approved the special district budgets as well: Neosho Drainage District, $36,300; Labette No. 9 Fire District, $94,900; Edna Elm Grove Cemetery, $31,620; Mound Valley Cemetery, $63,500; Oak Hill Cemetery, $41,500; Oswego Cemetery, $129,900; Pleasant Valley Cemetery, $17,065; Labette Township, $20,426; Richland Township, $6,976.


In other business, the commission: 

— Agreed to purchase a card printer for emergency management for $2,290. This is used to print the identification cards worn by responders and others.

— Agreed to replace the SonicWall firewall for the courthouse at a cost of $5,180 from Higher Calling Technologies. The firewall helps protect electronic data from outside intrusion.

— Paid bills totaling $317,884.72 and checks for jurors totaling $1,650.82. The jurors showed up for a criminal trial last week and waited a couple of hours before being dismissed and the trial was rescheduled.

— Agreed to purchase a flat bed scanner for the appraiser’s field staff for $689 from Higher Calling Technologies of Parsons. Commissioner Vail voted no.

— Met in closed session for attorney-client privileged discussion with County Counselor Brian Johnson. No action followed.

— Accepted the resignation of Kimberly Hawks from the Labette No. 9 Fire District Board effective Aug. 1. Commissioner Vail is working on a recommendation for her replacement.

— Approved a resolution to accept a donated piece of property for Labette No. 9 Fire District from Beachner Grain. The fire district is at 300 S. 53rd and Beachner Grain owns a number of acres around the fire house.

— Heard that the commission was asked to attend the next meeting of the Mound Valley City Council to discuss future maintenance of Hickory Street, which is the main north-south street going through the community. Vail said he would attend, but commissioners said they aren’t likely to support maintaining a town’s streets. The commission allows county equipment operated by county employees to perform similar tasks for communities, but the communities pay for the employees, equipment and fuel, as well as supplies.

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