Although the budget process for 2014 is now underway, Harvey County officials still are waiting to see what impact state legislation — and cuts — might have on local governments.
"There are still, of course, some things that are pending," said John Waltner, county administrator. "We don't know what the landscape will look like."
Departments' budget requests for 2014 will be due to the county administration office April 26, and the department budget hearings with county commissioners will begin May 13.
The budget hearings give commissioners a chance to hear from department heads about their requested budgets and projects they may have planned for the year ahead. The hearings are scheduled to wrap up June 24.
"We try to run as many through as we can each week," said Anthony Swartzendruber, assistant administrator and finance director for the county.
County staff will draft a recommended budget, and in early July, commissioners will conduct a work session to discuss department requests.
There will be a public budget hearing on Aug. 5, followed by the budget adoption on Aug. 12. Staff said having the adoption a week after the hearing gives commissioners time to consider input from the public before making a final budgeting decision.
Swartzendruber said department heads have been asked to keep 2014 budgets as flat as possible, and also look for areas where spending could be reduced, depending on what cuts come down from the state.
County officials are keeping an eye on a number of bills working their way through the state legislature, and one of the bills they are concerned about is HB 2141.
The bill requires every public entity that hires or contracts for a lobbyist to file a report with the Governmental Ethics Commission. This means public entities must provide itemized listings of all public funds used to employ or contract for a lobbyist, including membership dues/financial support paid to an association that employs a lobbyist or membership dues/financial support paid to an association that has an affiliated organization that employs a lobbyist.
"There are many organizations that we're participating in that would be affected," Waltner said.
The Kansas Association of Counties reported it is concerned because the definition of "financial support" and "association" is vague. If the county pays energy provider Westar and Westar employs a lobbyist, will the county need to file a report?
The Kansas Association of Counties thinks it would be easier to have lobbyists for these entities file the reports.
"Requiring literally thousands of small municipal entities to produce this information is inefficient and duplicative," the organization said. "It also doesn't appear to be advancing the policy of less government and less bureaucracy."