Commissioners will need an ax

Budget comes in 29 percent above ’09

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

Allen County commissioners were handed a preliminary 2010 budget Tuesday morning that called for a 16.472-mill property tax levy, which would be a 29 percent bump in local taxes.
Chairman Dick Works noted the budget contained requests “from everyone before any cuts have been made.” He said it wasn’t unusual for the budget, prepared by an independent accountant, to have a much higher levy at the start than it would after commissioners looked at it with a keen eye on thrift.
“We’ve been aggressive in making cuts in the past,” Works said.
The initial version of the spending plan calls for an increase of about $500,000 in general fund expenditures, to $4.975 million, with the levy going up 13.715 mills. A 1 mill levy generates $11.50 in taxes on a home valued at $100,000. If the 16.472 mills requested were to stay in place, taxes would increase by $189.43 for the owner of a $100,000 home; a $50,000 home would be taxed an extra $94.71.
Even though Works said commissioners would not find the mammoth increase acceptable, he noted economic conditions prompted the levy increase more than differences in expenditures. Interest on county funds is expected to bring in only $90,000 by year’s end, compared to the $320,000 anticipated a year ago. As a result of that and other factors, little cash is expected to be carried over into 2010; typically there is a substantial cash carryover.
Other expenses considered were the Road and Bridge Department budget, figured at $2.284 million, up $99,000 from this year’s $2.185 million.
Commissioners took home budget booklets and are expected to start slashing proposed spending at their July 27 meeting.

JACKIE SMITH, director of Allen County’s Big Brothers Big Sisters, told commissioners the organization needs $12,600 to see it through the remainder of this year. Tuesday morning’s BBBS bank balance was $801.01, which projected an $11,798.99 deficit.
She wondered if BBBS might tap into money the county receives from the state in alcohol tax rebates.
“We don’t get much,” Works said. “There isn’t much alcohol sold out in the county, and there’s a lot of competition for what money there is.”
“If you have any money, we’d sure like to have some,” Smith said, noting 30 matches of “bigs” and “littles” were in place and another 10 would be added by the end of the year.
Commissioners told Carol Buzbee, LaHarpe city superintendent, they would dispatch crews to LaHarpe to “help as much as we can” with widening and upgrade of a mile and a half of city streets in the southwest part of town. Buzbee said the work would require two tanker loads of hot oil.
Bill King, director of Public Works, said time and availability of fine-screened pea rock would determine when and how extensively the county could help. King estimated as much as 600 tons of pea rock would be needed, adding, “We might put down one coat and do the second later.” King said the county had not assisted with street work in LaHarpe for two or three years. County crews helped in Humboldt last summer.
King said he had a crew still working on storm cleanup in northeast Allen County, where a small but intense storm caused considerable tree, structure and crop damage a week ago.
He said installation of a liner for the county landfill’s new cell was “coming along with a few glitches, which are to be expected.” LaForge & Budd Construction, Parsons, is doing the work. The new cell will cover 10 acres and be about three times larger than previous ones at the landfill a mile southeast of LaHarpe. The cell is expected to have a 10-year life.
Good news, King said, was that Berry Tractor, Wichita, would replace under warranty a damaged radiator on a large loader at the county quarry. Repairs are estimated at $25,000.
Ambulance Director Jason Nelson said after recent training county emergency medical technicians with intermediate ratings were qualified to administer medications to patients suffering diabetes. The EMTIs are qualified to do other advanced procedures.
Ambulance personnel at the Allen County Fair will offer Vials of Life, containers that can be used to store personal and medical information.
“People can put the vials on their refrigerators and ambulance personnel can then have quick access to the information when they’re called,” Nelson said.
He said in the past week county ambulances had been called on 40 times, including requests for “a lot of transfers.” Transfers to metropolitan hospitals generate more revenue than shorter emergency runs.