Sedgwick Co. facing possible budget shortfall

WICHITA, Kan. — Sedgwick County is facing a massive budget shortfall if it doesn’t act soon. The county is blaming state cuts for a projected deficit in 2015, but the state has its own story.

Sedgwick County uses a five-year financial projection plan to try and maintain a balanced budget.

Wednesday’s report however, revealed that if commissioners don’t make some serious cutbacks Sedgwick will be in the red.

“We would be faced with a $2.4 million deficit in 2015 if we keep doing what we’re doing without changes,” said Dave Unruh, Chairman and Sedgwick County Commissioner for the 1st District.

Although this foreseeable deficit only adds up to about half a percent of an overall $412 million budget, it all adds up.

“When you start taking big chunks of your budget that you don’t want to touch, it makes cutting $2.4 million more difficult,” said Unruh.

“I understand that the state is under similar fiscal constraints, but as a partner, we’re expected to provide mandated services,” said Chairman Unruh. “We really anticipate that they should provide their share of those services.”

With fingers pointed right at state lawmakers, Representative Steve Brunk says the state has its own issues.

“The state’s facing their own challenges as well and we have our own revenue shortfalls that we have to watch out for,” said Brunk.

Representative Steve Brunk told KSN the county has other options to fix the projected deficit, namely ‘tax authority’.

“If they don’t like how we’re managing that tension between providing services and yet not having to tax people, if they don’t like how we’re handling that, then every two years they have an opportunity to throw us bums out and they do,” said Brunk.

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Budget Projections

Regardless, county commissioners say it’s nothing they haven’t dealt with before.

Back in 2011, it was projected that without change, Sedgwick Co. would have ended up with a $17 million deficit for 2013. That prompted action.

Commissioners were able to break even just two years later.

“We hit a balanced budget and took a sigh of relief and now it looks like we’re gonna go back into deficit spending if we don’t manage that better,” said Unruh.

The attitude, however remains hopeful.

“We’ll get there because we’re committed to a balanced budget and we’re committed to providing services,” said Unruh.

The past five years, general government expenses have remained constant for the most part. That includes things local governments fund like the county clerk, the district attorney and the courts.

Comparing that to funding public safety, that is a huge chunk of the budget; around 38%.

To read the 2014 Quarterly Financial Report, released publicly at the meeting Wednesday, click here.

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