County plans to decrease 2023 mill levy
Thanks to an increase in assessed valuation and revenue along with additional money coming in from the TransCanada Keystone pipeline, local property owners will pay less in Dickinson County taxes in 2023 than they did in 2022.
The proposed 2023 county budget will reduce the mill levy by 2.134 mills. That means the owner of a $175,000 home will pay an estimated $1,103 in taxes for county services for one year or $92 a month.
A mill is equal to one dollar per $1,000 of assessed property value.
Two public hearings regarding the county’s proposed 2023 budget are scheduled for Thursday morning. At 11:05 a.m., county commissioners will hold a hearing to exceed the revenue neutral rate, followed by the regular budget hearing in the county commission chamber of the courthouse.
The county plans to use tax dollars to fund $14,456,879 of its proposed $27,128,833 fiscal year 2023 budget. The $27M amount is the maximum the county could spend to fund services that will protect the health, safety and welfare of county citizens.
“Our assessed valuation has increased,” said Dickinson County Budget Director/Asst. County Administrator Janelle Dockendorf, explaining the reason for the mill levy decrease. “Last year, we levied for $14,455,530 in tax dollars. The increase in assessed valuation helps offset that.
“It’s a balance between our carryover, our proposed revenues, our proposed expenditures and assessed valuation,” she added. “Those pieces all go into driving the mill levy.”
Cut every department? During a recent commission meeting it was suggested the county cut every department by 10 percent. Dockendorf said that is not feasible, especially for 911, EMS and the sheriff’s department,all of which operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
“Our patrons probably wouldn’t like it if we didn’t have people here to answer their 911 calls, or no one from the sheriff’s office responded when they called or if we didn’t clear snow and ice in the winter and put salt and sand down,” she said.
Services offered by other departments are just as necessary for people who want to come in and transact business.
“The public has an expectation that they can come to the courthouse and receive these services,” Dockendorf said.
Also, Kansas counties are mandated by law to provide services. These include conducting elections, property appraisal, tax system administration and collecting and distributing taxes for all county taxing entities; registration and licensing motor vehicles and issuing driver’s licenses; district court; construction and maintenance of roads, bridges and culverts; provide a county board of health; eradication of noxious weeds; provide mental health, drug and alcohol programs, emergency medical services, 911, solid waste disposal and waste management plans; jail, law enforcement, prosecution of civil and criminal cases, certify tax levies for taxing subdivisions; disaster management and zoning and more.
“It’s in the state constitution that we provide those things,” Dockendorf said.
Ever increasing costs For months now, the price of fuel, food and other goods and services has been on an upward climb.
“We’re seeing a 17 percent increase in utilities for all departments. We know people are seeing that at home. We’re seeing it here (with the county) as well,” Dockendorf said.
Some of the county services affected include:
* A 27 percent increase in medical supplies on the ambulances; a 20% increase for EMS laundry
and linens; a 10% increase in oxygen and IV for EMS
* A 21% increase for property insurance
* A 15% increase for fuel used by all departments
* A 3% increase in inmate meals due to increasing food costs; 3% increase in inmate medical costs.
* A 25% increase to legal and indigent defense
* Higher forensics cost, moving from $1,850 to $2,100 per autopsy when an autopsy is ordered by the coroner to make sure there’s no foul play
* A 5 to 44% health insurance increase (Employers costs continue to increase. The huge difference is due to staff changes as the county’s costs change depending on the plan employees
* 5% average salary increase to try to stay competitive with the private sector in order to retain and attract employees
* A $4.20 increase per ton for asphalt; 12% increase for road oil; 7% for road maintenance materials; $1 per ton increase for road sand for dust control; $2.15 per ton increase for road stone and $1.30 increase for chip (seal) rock; $1 per ton increase for road salt to treat roads for snow and ice
When Dockendorf began preliminary budget work in March her recommendation at that time was not to increase the levy. Fortunately, the various components that feed the budget were favorable allowing a mill levy decrease.
“With the staff and elected officials being very careful with their budget and managing them, plus the cash carryover we’ve got and monies from the pipeline, that helped offset the significant cost
increases we’ve seen across the board,” Dockendorf said.
“We will have to see how that plays out for this next year. And we’re still operating under the revenue neutral rate.” RNR
The RNR, as defined by legislation, is the property tax rate in mills that would generate the same property tax in dollars as levied during the previous tax year using the current tax year’s total assessed valuation.
In 2020, the Kansas Legislature passed Senate Bill 13 that set new requirements on public notices and hearings if a county or city’s proposed budget exceeds the revenue neutral rate (RNR).
With the mill levy reduction, Dickinson County is not planning to exceed the RNR; however, since the budget is based on estimates there’s always the possibility that revenues may change.
“In November, we’ll get the final abstract and then we’ll know for sure, but if our assessed valuation goes down we’ll get less tax dollars,” Dockendorf said. “That’s why we will have a
hearing to show we are exceeding the revenue neutral rate to make sure we can receive those tax dollars if our assessed valuation changes.”
As for large, budgeted expenditures for equipment, land or buildings, the county is setting money aside for IT (information technology), which includes increasing costs associated with cyber
security, upgrading workstations and other tasks.
Other items in the capital plan, include:
* CPR devices for EMS
* Setting aside funds to replace fire rescue trucks stationed in Abilene and Herington. The county purchases the vehicles – which come equipped — and the fire departments man them.
* Setting aside monies for a semi used to pull the road and bridge department’s belly dump equipment; purchasing new dump trucks and putting money aside to replace old excavators
* Budgeting for the $950,000 annual bond payment and another $80,000 payment for the EMS building.
Dockendorf noted the courthouse bond payment does not account for the tax increase. It is covered using other funds.
“The money from the pipeline is helping pay for this because we are reducing the mill levy,” she said.
After waiting 10 years to receive it, the money from the pipeline was higher than anticipated.
“Those funds are good not just for the county, but the townships and school districts in the county that receive money as well.”
Three school districts, six townships and three fire departments in Dickinson County received pipeline monies.
Every year the county awards money to a number of outside organizations, who visit with commissioners and make their budget requests.
For 2023, the agencies and the amount that will be funded, includes: Dickinson County Conservation District $30,000; North Central Kansas Regional Juvenile Detention Facility $39,000;
Flint Hills Task Force on Aging $11,872; Central Kansas Free Fair $65,000; Tri-County Fair $5,000; Dickinson County Historical Society $80,000; Central Kansas Mental Health $116,940;
OCCK $105,000; county tourism $12,000; and Dickinson County Economic Development Corp. $150,000.
“Every year, the county staff and commission work hard to create a fair, reasonable budget, while still providing the same level of service we always have for our citizens,” Dockendorf said.
Anyone with questions about the proposed 2023 budget is encouraged to call Dockendorf or County Administrator Brad Homman at (785) 263-3120 or attend the budget hearing on Thursday,