UPDATE: Sedgwick County Commissioners adopted the 2017 budget by a vote of 4-1.
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Sedgwick County commission is expected to vote today on the final 2017 county budget.
KSN spoke with county officials to find out big changes we can expect to see.
The county has prepared for this day for months.
Mike Scholes, the Sedgwick County manager, says the two biggest changes in the budget involve public safety and employee wages.
Public safety needed to improve across the spectrum, Scholes said.
That includes everything from the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office and their needs, to the District Attorney.
For example, he says both the City of Wichita and the sheriff’s office are using body cameras.
That means they have to address the personnel and infrastructure needs in the DA’s office that come with that responsibility.
Another big issue that Scholes says will need to be addressed is that the county has had six years of flat budgets based off the economy and lack of growth, despite growing needs.
Because of that, employee wages are close to 8 percent out of market with other comparable areas like Tulsa and Omaha.
“Each one in itself; public safety and pay or salary, or pay and benefits for the employees, each one of those required some creative thought but deliberate action in this 2017 budget,” Scholes said.
Commissioner Dave Unruh told KSN he agrees this needs to be corrected and says the staff has done a good job in addressing it.
“I’m pleased that we are, we’re not even considering a mill levy increase and I’m pleased that we have corrected that structural imbalance in our compensation,” Unruh said.
The budget process started about six months ago when Scholes met with directors and departments to learn about what their needs are.
For commissioners, Unruh says it began at a retreat where they were given a chance to tell the staff what they expect and want to achieve through the budget.
From there, Scholes and his staff work to come up with something to satisfy everyone, or at least the majority vote.
This year, everything has been open to the public, whether in front of cameras or posted online.
Public comments will be addressed at today’s vote, Scholes said.
He noted that a major bonus in this year’s budget is that property tax rates have stayed the same.
It took some creativity but they were able to find everything within the budget.
That was a guiding principal throughout the process, Scholes said.