Ellis County looks for cuts to erase $1.5M budget shortfall

Hays Post

With the end-of-the-month deadline looming to balance the 2015 budget the Ellis County Commission met with department heads again Monday afternoon in an effort to cut into the approximately $1.5 million shortfall.

Barb Wasinger

Barb Wasinger

Despite an increase in tax valuation in the county from 2013 to 2014 the county is anticipating a reduction in revenues because of changes in personal property taxes, the way wireline equipment is listed and a reduction in oil and gas tax.

At Monday’s special meeting, the commission tasked department heads with finding places to cut, and they targeted about $500,000 to $600,000 in possible cuts — leaving an estimated shortfall of approximately $1 million.

“I know and I appreciate that all of you have tried to be really mindful of where you are spending money and what’s going on. But it’s just not there,” Chairwoman Barb Wasinger said.

EMS Director Kerry McCue said he believes most departments are almost the same as last year and without current funding levels, services might have to be reduced.

Wasinger said some departments might not be able to provide the same level of services they do now because of budget cuts.

“That’s the decision the taxpayers need to know is being made here, either pay more taxes or we cut back and some services may have to be cut back a little bit,” she said.

But, Wasinger added, “I hear from everyone, don’t raise our taxes. We’re all trying to cut back.”

When crafting their budget proposals, department heads were told to budget for a 3-percent pay increase for employees.

The commission and the department heads talked about possibly cutting those raises.

County Attorney Tom Drees noted that, if everyone has cut everything they can, that only leaves personnel. Drees said 95 percent of his budget is salaries.

“For most of us … the cost of our increase is the raise,” he said.

Public Works Director Mike Graf brought up the fact that Ellis County does not have a general county-wide sales tax and, while that won’t help the current situation, it could be something to consider in the future.

“That may be something we have to start educating the public if they want to try continue services,” Wasinger said. “We may have to sell that.”

  • numbersguy

    maybe its time for across the board pay cuts or letting some people go. taxpayers are taxed out. start making the hard decisions commish.

  • Big oil stays big

    Reduction in oil and gas tax? Now I know that is not a consumer reduction. Who exactly is getting those taxes lowered? Hmmmm.

    • A_citizen_patriot

      Not sure what the lowered it too. But the oil tax in ellis county was at 25%. I cant imagine they lowered it very much.

  • Yahooserious

    Sooo EMS is getting a new shinny building, however, they will be cutting services. Nice one. Lol. Makes a lot of sense.

    • backhoe

      The County rejected all bids before because they broke over 3.5 million. Yet they just announce bid accepted at 3.48 million. That’s not exactly scaling down the project?? Pretty sure an addition to the current building would do. But I guess not.

    • guest

      The decision to upgrade offices and EMS was piggy-backed with MUCH NEEDED jail upgrades. It seemed to put voters in a tough place, especially when so many are tired of repeat offenders put back on the street, only to be arrested within a week or two again. A better, larger jail could accomodate these offenders. However, the remainder of the tax probably should have been put in place to protect current interests, and then look at improvements down the road. I feel for those who will suffer as part of cuts that are going to have to take place. However, 6-figure wages for certain administrative positions do seem mighty high for those who will lose everything.

      • jackson

        so you’re saying a much needed jail upgrade will stop the courts from sending repeat offenders back on the street???

        • guest

          absolutely. many of them are released on corrections instead of housed because of lack of space.

          • Yahooserious

            Uh no. The upgrade is so we can house our own. Not pay other facilities to house them. That’s the jail upgrade in a nutshell.

          • guest

            “”Community corrections is a big help in all this,” Harbin said of the problem of too many inmates.”

    • Lisa VanHorn

      I would urge you to visit the current rural fire station and EMS station, maybe then you would understand. Rural fire is on a volunteer bases. Many times the firefighters have to leave their jobs and forfeit pay to respond. Most of their equipment is out dated, bought themselves or bought by grant money which is in results of endless paperwork. EMS and Rural fire are crowed into a building that was not designed to house equipment and supplies. If any areas of the city or county departments that deserve a better building or equipment, it would be these two.

  • zman

    So Tom cut your wages

  • Guest

    This again, is another side effect of Brownback’s failed tax plan. Vote for a change!!

    • Guie LeDeuche

      And how is that exactly?

      • Not rocket science.

        As guest said, his failed tax policy. You do know as Topeka takes in less tax revenue so do the communities it(ks government) support. You understand that? His business and corporate tax breaks are not working. Remember his “look out Texas, here comes kansas” speech? Well business aren’t flocking to kansas and unless they do soon it’s going to get worse. You do know the KS government took a 600+ millions dollar loan recently to pay for the shortfall correct? To pay the bills it can’t. Do you not understand this? Soooo unless, let’s say GE moves to kansas. We’ll be in the red for quite a while.

        • Yep

          Yep, and as the census count goes down-as it has for several years now-that tax burden will be more and more on a fewer number of backs. People can’t understand simple economics. People are not flocking to kansas. They are leaving. Coleman, boing, ect, ect. People just don’t like kansas and if you think right wing tea Partiers are going to attract business you only need to look at one example; kansas.

        • numbers

          brownback’s trickle down nonsense like Reagan tried. didn’t work back then. not working now. give the rich the tax breaks in hopes they’ll trickle that money down to the poor. get the government off the backs of those hard working rich cats. by 2017 this State will suck deep in the red.

    • copperhead

      how is brownback at fault for this? i think our commission led by our county manager put us in this position with bad decision making.

    • ddd

      The commissioners could take the lead and take a pay cut themselves! Especially since the chairwoman is not in attendance half the time.

    • A_citizen_patriot

      Maby they shouldn’t spend 3.5 million on the new ems building?

  • dogger

    i wonder what shape we’d be in if we didn’t have oil production in this county. look what that brings in every year.

  • Lefty54

    I look forward to all the people saying they need to cut sports. Apparently that will save USD 489, so I’m sure it will save Ellis county also.