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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • 2014 budget, tax increase approved  

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  • Harvey County Commissioners finalized the 2014 budget at their meeting Monday, approving a proposed four mill tax increase.
    "I don't like to raise taxes, but I think we've done what we can and discussed it," commissioner Ron Krehbiel said.
    "I think it's down to bare bones as it is, unless we get into cutting services, and I don't want to do that," commissioner Randy Hague added.
    According to Anthony Swartzendruber, assistant administrator and finance director for the county, staff began the 2014 budget process back in February. Staff put together a plan of capital improvement projects, and commissioners heard presentations from each of the county departments about their budget needs/challenges.
    The commission conducted a formal public hearing on the budget at their meeting last week. Two community members spoke at the hearing, asking commissioners not to raise taxes. There were no additional comments on the budget at Monday's meeting.
    Commissioner Chip Westfall said many departments were able to hold their budgets flat or even reduce them for 2014. The mill levy is being increased primarily to fund more road maintenance in the county. Commissioners said they feared if the county didn't start working on more roads annually, they'd continue to fall further behind.
    "That's a pretty important project for the county to cover," Westfall said.
    At the budget hearing last week, Westfall also said the state legislature failed to do its job to fund assistance to the counties for property tax relief, and due to that loss in funding, local governments have had to take on new expenses.
    Some county residents will be supportive of the mill levy increase and some won't, Westfall said, but he thinks the commission has done their best to find a balance between maintaining services and keeping taxes as low as possible.
    "I think we hit the middle of the road," Westfall said.
    John Waltner, county administrator, said the budget challenges will not end this year. Commissioners will have major projects and equipment purchases to decide on in coming years.
    "There will be some significant decisions to make in the future," he said.
     
     

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