Sedgwick County Commission releases budget that includes millions in cuts

WICHITA, Kansas – The Sedgwick County Commission unveiled the county’s budget for the coming year on Monday morning. Around $8 million in cuts is being proposed.

The budget includes eliminating $388,302 from the zoo, $75,000 from Exploration Place, $350,000 from the law enforcement training center, and cutting or eliminating EMS services to the southeast and northeast part of the county.

It would also eliminate $5 million for the jail expansion and $4 million for the Sedgwick County Forensic Science Center. KPERS funding would be eliminated by $1 million.

Three county commissioners say they want to get away from bond funding, or borrowing, to raise money.

“But bonding is like putting a mortgage on your business or on your home,” says commissioner Karl Peterjohn. “You put a mortgage on and you are put in a situation where it’s got to be paid.”

Other commissioners point out, issuing municipal bonds is a tried and true practice the county has done for years. They also point out the county has a very good credit rating.

“Well, I think all the governments that are our size, they all use bonding as a tool and a mechanism to provide services,” says commissioner Dave Unruh. “But getting away from using bonds… as I would call it, this is an experimental budget because we haven’t done it this way before. But the net result of that is we are cutting many community partners and agencies that provide services for citizens all across the county.”

Other areas cut will include Riverfest at $10,000 less funding and over $14,000 in funding for the Arts Council would be eliminated.

Click image to view recommended budget

If you are interested in saying something about the budget cuts, a meeting will be held Wednesday, July 29th at 9 a.m. on the third floor of the county courthouse. Another meeting will be held August 6th at 6 p.m. at the same place.

The 2016 Budget will be adopted on August 12 during the regular Sedgwick County Commission meeting at 9 a.m.

You can share your disagreement with the cuts by clicking here.

Sedgwick County Zoo responds

The Sedgwick County Zoo sent an email out to its supporters Monday afternoon asking them to contact members of the County Commission.

Our partners at Sedgwick County have made the difficult decision to cut the planned funding amount for the Zoo for 2016 in the amount of $388,302. This funding was earmarked for the hiring of zookeepers to manage and care for the animals in the new Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley exhibit, per our five-year financial agreement.

Click here to read the full email.

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