High Plains Today
Rosy Evans and Elizabeth Irby of Genesis Family Health, formerly United Methodist Mexican American Ministries, read a proclamation for National Health Center Week, Aug. 7-13, in Seward County at Monday’s commission meeting. L&T photo/Robert Pierce
By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
Following a brief public hearing, Seward County commissioners voted unanimously Monday to approve the 2017 budget proposa,l which calls for a slight decrease in the mill levy.
Commission chairman Nathan McCaffrey called the public hearing to order following a motion, second and vote from the board, and after he asked if anyone in Monday’s audience had any concerns to address, none were heard. The commission then voted to close the public hearing.
Commissioner Randy Malin made an initial motion to adopt the 2017 budget, but administrator April Warden said some other figures were included with the numbers in this year’s budget.
“The department heads did include their capital improvement plans with the budget,” she said. “At this time, if you could please approve the 2017 budget as presented with capital expenditures, we can move forward with those as they make those purchases. Those are approved for the clerk’s office to pay. You’re just moving to approve the 2017 budget and capital CIP plan as presented.”
Malin then adjusted his motion to include the county’s capital improvement plan budget with the 2017 budget, and commissioner Ada Linenbroker seconded the motion.
Prior to the vote, McCaffrey spoke briefly about how the county arrived at the budget which was approved Monday.
“We met for two days back in July over the course of several hours in the morning and the afternoon with the department heads as they present their budgets,” he said. “The way the process works from there is sometimes, we have questions for the department heads at that particular time when they do their presentation for the budget.”
McCaffrey emphasized that each department’s budget is gone through carefully before deciding what amount that department will get.
“After we get through with all of the presentations, we see kind of where we’re at with all the budgets that each of the department heads have presented versus where that would leave us for having to raise taxes or lower taxes,” he said. “We did call at least one, maybe two department heads back to kind of scrutinize the budget just a little bit more.”
McCaffrey also noted that the budget process is not one of rubber stamping department presentations.
“There are a few opportunities for us asking questions during the initial presentation and afterwards,” he said.
The 2017 budget came in with a mill levy of 44.360, just slightly under the 2016 level of 44.402. That came after an increase from 2015, when the levy was at 35.979.
The county’s expenditures continue to rise, though. In 2015, the county had $25.9 million in expenditures. That number rose to $27.8 million last year, and in 2017, $32.1 million were planned for.
Assessed valuation for Seward County was up, however, and a trend for that number is hard to figure. The valuation for 2015 was $253.86 million, falling to $229.56 million in 2016 and rising to $252.9 million this year.
McCaffrey said the county does not anticipate increasing taxes for this year, and that statement was confirmed by Warden.
“They come in just slightly under the mill levy of what it was last year,” she said of the numbers in the budget.
McCaffrey said during the two-day budget process, everything possible was done by the commission and other county leaders to insure taxes would not be raised, something the chairman said he and the rest of the board take very seriously.
“It’s very important to me individually as a commissioner and, I think, the commission as a whole considering the city, the county and the individual’s financial state that we do everything that we can to make sure that Seward County is operating as efficiently as possible to keep taxes low,” he said. “I think that’s easier said than done. I think there’s a few things we’ve learned from this process. I think we’ll implement some changes for next year as far as how budget requests are presented and the information the commissioners have access to that will allow us to do that even better in the future.”
Following brief statements from Malin and Linenbroker, the commission then voted unanimously to approve the budget.