Shawnee County Commissioners pass 2014 budget

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TOPEKA, KS — Shawnee County Commissioners ironed out the details of the 2014 budget Thursday morning.

At the top of the list,  the decision to merge Emergency Management with the Sheriff’s Office. Nicolette Schleisman was there for the final vote, she explains what next year’s budget means for you.

“Thank you very much for showing up. Thank you thank you,” said Dave Sterbenz.

Before Commissioners even began their meeting Thursday, supporters of the Shawnee County Emergency Management lined the halls in matching shirts to show their support for the department.

They got their way, Commissioners voted to keep Emergency Management independent from the Sheriff’s Office.

“Our budget request went from 242 thousand to 200 thousand so that’s a pretty high percentage cut. but I don’t have to lay off any of my staff and all of our critical functions will be covered,” said Dave Sterbenz, director of Emergency Management.

“I have had many sleepless nights over the past few weeks. And this is quite frankly been the hardest point of my life to date,” said Kevin Cook, Shawnee County Commissioner.

Nearly all of the departments budgets were slashed, only a handful got more money for next year’s budget. Only the District Attorney’s Office and elections got more than a $230,000 increase from last year’s budget. The Parks and Recreation department saw the heaviest cuts, at over $1.5 million from last year.

“It will affect services. We’ll have to look at closing facilities we’ll have to look at reducing hours of facilities. We’ll have to look at employees. Both seasonal and permanent employees,” said John Knight, Director of Parks and Recreation.

This year’s county budget is down about $4 million from last year. But, it brings nearly a 4 mill increase in the county’s property tax levy that is an increase of $45.90 on $100,000 home. Commissioners expressed just how hard this decision was.

“No one is going to like this budget. I don’t like it and I’m not happy with it. The other commissioners are not happy. It was a budget we had to pass. Not one that we wanted to pass,” said Commissioner Bob Archer.

Commissioners are hopeful that reserves will increase and that next year’s budget will not have the dramatic cuts. The budget passed 2 to 1, Commissioner Kevin Cook voted against it.

Commissioner Bob Archer says they may look at merging Emergency Management with the Sheriff’s Office further, but he says they would need more than a few days to make a decision like that.

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