New county budget contract leads to questions

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Back in August, Sedgwick County passed their budget, and along with that, made their determination for how much would go to different areas.

However, since the contracts were rewritten, officials in Derby had some concerns because of new phrasing they hadn’t seen before dealing with their agreement to receive $115,000 from Sedgwick County for their senior center.

“We hire people and operate and run these programs based on the assumption that we’re going to get this money,” said city manager Kathy Sexton. “What we have is an update in the contract language that gives us the indication that they can cut the funding, if they want to, sometime in 2017. We don’t know what would trigger such a cut, per se, but essentially the new contract says if they don’t have the money. Well, what does that mean?”

KSN went to Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Howell to ask him why the change was made. He says, the principle of the county being able to pull back funding is nothing new.

“It’s standard language. It’s in everything we do in the county, everything we do,” Howell said. “Senior centers are not being singled out, everything we do in the county has standard language just like this. The zoo, Exploration Place, the Intrust Bank Arena, everything we do.”

However, while it’s always been there in concept, he admits it may not have always been put so explicitly.

“The actual provision is not new, it’s just clearly worded in this particular agreement in a way that has not been worded in previous agreements with that type of clarity.”

The county recently had all their agreements and contracts rewritten by lawyers, but Howell says regardless of how it’s written, it would take something major for a cut to happen.

“It would be unforeseen, it would be something we would never intend, it would be extraordinary events that would have to happen, but at the end of the day, we have to be able to manage our affairs. That’s all this is.”