Johnson County’s FY 2023 Proposed Budget reduces mill levy, offers workforce compensation

Interior with wood table and computer in Johnson County board room

County Manager Penny Postoak Ferguson Thursday, May 12, released her FY 2023 Proposed Budget for Johnson County Government, unveiling a plan that includes a mill levy reduction in all three of the county’s taxing districts equaling a full mill reduction in total.

If approved in the county’s final budget for next year, it would be the largest mill levy reduction in more than two decades.

In addition, the county manager’s proposed budget outlines efforts to address the pay and benefits of the county government’s workforce in a time of increased voluntarily job turnovers and low unemployment in an ever-challenging labor market. The financial proposal also funds the 2023 capital improvement projects and keeps adequate reserves, important for maintaining the coveted Triple AAA bond rating.

County Manager Postoak Ferguson and Budget and Financial Planning staff presented the proposed FY 2023 Budget to the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners during an afternoon Committee of the Whole session. No action was taken on the proposed budget plan.

“We are here to serve the community. We are very cognizant of the impact from property valuations, especially on those with fixed and modest incomes. The proposed mill levy reduction of a full mill comes with careful thought and analysis,” the county manager noted in her budget message.

“It is achievable at this time and can be done while addressing compensation and the highest service delivery of our organization. After all we have been through, it feels good to put forward a proposed budget that accomplishes so much.”

The county manager is proposing a reduction of 0.82 mills for the County Taxing District, 0.10 mills for Johnson County Library and 0.08 mills for Johnson County Park and Recreation District for a total of one mill.

The one mill levy reduction, if authorized in the final FY 2023 Budget by the BOCC, would represent the largest decrease in the county’s total mill levy since at least 1999, according to Budget and Financial Planning.  It also represents the fifth mill levy reduction in six years. The past four reductions averaged approximately a quarter of a mill.

The proposed total mill levy for County Government is set at 24.568 mills, the lowest since 2014. The proposed mill levy for the county taxing district is 17.744 mills, which remains the lowest among the 105 counties of Kansas and the lowest since 2013 in Johnson County budgets. The proposed taxing levies for the Johnson County Park and Recreation District (3.016 mills) and Johnson County Library (3.808 mills) are the lowest since 2015.

Workforce market pressures

According to the county manager, Johnson County Government, like national and regional employers, has significant pressures on its workforce in terms of recruitment, retention and compensation across county job categories and pay grades

The county’s voluntary turnover rate increased to 11.84% in 2021. The rate in 2020 and 2019 was 8.44%. Many seasoned county employees are also planning to retire in the coming years.

“Not only are we losing more employees compared to recent years, but the data shows that fewer people are looking for employment. Unemployment was very low in Johnson County, at 2.4%, in 2019, before the pandemic, but has since dropped even further, to 1.7% at the end of 2021,” the county manager noted in her budget message.

In addressing the county’s workforce pressures, the proposed budget seeks:

  • An investment of the equivalent of a 2% pool of total salaries in 2022 to address issues with pay compression in baseline assumptions for the FY 2023 Budget.
  • 3% merit pool for individual 2022 performance (ranging from 0-5%).
  • 2% market increase to help prevent future compression issues and to be competitive in the market.
  • 1% increase to the county’s match to supplemental retirement (raising the maximum match from 3 to 4%).

Additional staffing for growing demands

The FY 2023 Proposed Budget adds in areas that align with the BOCC priorities and the feedback in the 2022 Community Survey in addressing the growing demands for public services and programs. The satisfaction of public safety services was rated at 94% in the survey.

Highest-priority services included aging and human services, mental health services, public health services and emergency medical/ambulance services.

The BOCC’s priorities include meeting the needs of the county’s vulnerable populations, creating conditions that promote community health, developing a forward-thinking transit approach that connects the community and serves vulnerable populations and strategic capital planning of major projects with efficiency and effectiveness.

The budget proposal funds a maximum number of Full Time Employees at 4,173.74. The list includes seven Sheriff’s Office positions for added safety and security, two additional positions for the Department of Emergency Services to answer 9-1-1 calls and dispatch first responders, and a medicolegal death investigator for the Medical Examiner’s Office.

Other proposed staff additions include a victim advocate for the District Attorney’s Office to help address a backlog of cases, a new housing coordinator to focus on housing insecurity and affordability for the Department of Health and Environment, and three Mental Health Center positions.

FY 2023 Proposed Budget by the numbers

Johnson County’s FY 2023 Proposed Budget totals $1.64 billion, with expenditures estimated at $1.15 billion and reserves set at $488.1 million. The proposed Capital Improvement Program (CIP), totaling $264.1 million, includes:

  • $130.9 million for Wastewater’s capital projects.
  • $23.3 million for the Stormwater management Program by Public Works.
  • $21.8 million for Commerce Center phase II at the New Century AirCenter.
  • $20 million for Park and Recreation District’s Capital Improvement Plan.
  • $17.2 million for the County Assistance Road System (CARS) program by Public Works.
  • $9.8 million for a new Med-Act facility in Olathe.
  • $5.5 million for Johnson County Library projects.
  • $3.6 million for bus replacement for Johnson County Transit.
  • $2.4 million for bridge, culverts, and road construction safety program of Public Works.

What’s next

The BOCC will review the county manager’s budget proposal, meet with county departments and agencies in a series of afternoon work sessions from May 19 to June 9, and make changes or other modifications in crafting the board’s budget plan for 2023.

The board is scheduled to finalize the county’s budget on June 16-17 for legal publication on June 23. 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 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 22, in the Hearing Room.

The BOCC is scheduled to adopt the final 2023 Budget resolution during its business session on Thursday, Sept. 1, beginning at 9:30 a.m. in the Hearing Room.

By state law, Kansas counties must adopt and file their FY 2023 Budget with the County Clerk, which in Johnson County is the Department of Treasury, Taxation and Vehicles, by Oct. 1 if they exceed the revenue neutral rate.

The final setting of the FY 2023 mill levy will be established by the end of October with the latest property valuations by the Department of Treasury, Taxation and Vehicles. The mill levy calculations are only for Johnson County Government and do not include other taxing entities, such as the state of Kansas, cities or townships and school districts. The county taxing district traditionally represents approximately 15% of annual property tax statements.

Johnson County’s fiscal year begins Jan.1, 2023.

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