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Proposed 2017 budget for Johnson County maintains existing services despite state funding cuts and increasing population

Today County Manager Hannes Zacharias proposed a budget for next year that maintains a constant mill levy while addressing growing demands for public services and mounting funding cuts from the state of Kansas. Zacharias and Budget and Financial Planning staff presented the proposed FY 2017 Budget during a Committee of the Whole session.

“Looking ahead to next year, the primary question quickly became whether the county budget could handle the year-to-year challenges and absorb lost funding from the state,” Zacharias said. “Although the outlook was somewhat bleak initially, the foundation set last year by the BOCC, coupled with the thriving local economy, has been enough to bring the budget into balance without a mill increase.”

Johnson County’s proposed FY 2017 budget totals $942.4 million, with expenditures estimated at $734.2 million and reserves set at $208.2 million. The proposed budget maintains existing services and General Fund reserves, funds health care increases, offsets state cuts to crucial services and meets growing service demands.

The budget proposal holds the county’s current taxing levy (still the lowest mill levy in Kansas) steady at 26.595 mills. It includes 19.582 mills for the County Taxing District, 3.912 mills for Johnson County Library, and 3.101 mills for Johnson County Park and Recreation.

The proposed 2017 budget includes a Capital Improvement Program (CIP) totaling more than $129.8 million. Highlights of the CIP include:
• $56.9 million for Wastewater’s capital projects;
• $14 million for the County Assistance Road System (CARS) program by Public Works;
• $13.1 million for voting machine replacement for the Elections Office;
• $9.2 million for Park and Recreation District’s Capital Improvement Plan;
• $3.1 million bus replacement by Johnson County Transit; and
• $5.7 million in capital and debt service for the Comprehensive Library Master Plan projects for Johnson County Library.

The proposed budget funds a maximum number of Full Time Employees at 3,883.99, including 14.9 new positions that are county tax support funded and 15.0 FTEs that are fee supported in Wastewater or within the Park and Recreation District. They would provide programs and services for the 593,863 residents projected for Johnson County next year.

The county manager noted several ongoing future challenges including bridging the financial gaps for public services in light of state funding reductions. A four percent Medicaid reduction announced on May 20 will result in additional cuts to the county’s Health and Human Services departments and agencies.

“While the county’s finances continue to be prudently managed, state cuts are, and will continue to, deeply impact the county’s most vulnerable populations,” Zacharias said.

What’s next:
--The BOCC will review the county manager’s budget proposal, make changes or other modifications in crafting the board’s budget plan for 2017, and meet with county departments and agencies in a series of afternoon work sessions in June.
--The BOCC is scheduled to finalize the county’s budget on June 23 for legal publication. Following legal publication, the county cannot, by law, increase the amount of the budgeted expenditures, but can decrease the amount of the operating budget or taxing level with final approval by the Board.
--The public hearing on the new county budget will take place at 7 p.m. Monday, August 1, in the Hearing Room.
--The BOCC is scheduled to adopt the 2017 budget resolution during its business session on Thursday, August 11, beginning at 9:30 a.m. in the Hearing Room. According to state statute, the county’s new budget must be approved and filed with the County Clerk by August 25.

Details about the proposed FY 2017 Budget, current FY 2016 Budget, and budget process are available at the county’s main website at http://jocogov.org/dept/budget-and-financial-planning/home.