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Board of Sedgwick County Commissioners

A Word in Edgewise

By Commissioner Tim Norton

July 21, 2014

The next several weeks will be busy analyzing the Manager’s recommended budget for 2015 and having conversations with my colleagues about the decisions that will have to be made in the budget to be fiscally responsible, maintain as many programs and services as possible, minimize the effect on our workforce, but also make decisions that precipitate positive change, have long-term systematic implications, and help stabilize the finances for years to come.   All those parts of the budget deliberation dynamic will not come to decision point easily.  Opinions differ.   Courses of action are divergent. Outside advocacies affect the outcomes.

Ultimately the five commissioners will have to codify a 2015 budget.  I am assured that some partners, citizens, entities will not be happy with the final document.   All years have difficulties and decision points.   The last several years including this one are problematic because of the uncertainty that lingers locally and at the State and Federal level.   We will pass a budget.  The issue is always who or what do you effect to reduce expenditures, make changes, limit services and still try to meet the needs of the community.

There will be two public hearings this year to get feedback from citizens and advocacy groups.   I am enjoy the ability to connect with and hear from citizens and groups about the budget.  The dialogue and debate is healthy, promoted and valuable to come to the ultimate budget document.  Sometimes the opinions on budget cuts are uncomfortable to hear but it is part of the process.  

The first public hearing is Wednesday, July 30th.   The second hearing is Thursday, August 7th at 9:00a.m. in the Commission board room.     The budget adoption is scheduled for the regular Commission meeting day on Wednesday, August 13th.   The budget adoption day is not a public hearing day but is an open meeting.   I would urge any one with budget thoughts to participate in one of the public hearings.  You can also weigh in online at www.sedgwickcounty.org.

We received the recommended budget just last week but I already had several questions and concerns several topics.   I quickly enumerated some of my early concerns to the Manager and my fellow commissioners.   Among them were the cut to WATC funding, Project Access funding, the summer mowing program that keeps vegetation mowed along County ditches, the Child Advocacy Center general operation monies, and the super seal program that paves problematic township roads.   I will have more questions, concerns, suggestions as I dig deeper into the nuts and bolts of the 2015 budget and analyze each department, program and expenditure.  

The Sedgwick County budget is the guiding document for our priorities, service provision and infrastructure projects.  I take my responsibility seriously and do my homework.  The last couple of years we have been able to avoid deficit spending, balance the budget, and maintain programs and services in pretty much the same level as prior years.  That may be a little harder in the upcoming years as State revenues continue to diminish to help fund mandated programs.  That is all for this week. 

Thanks for letting me get a word in edgewise.

T.N.