Thursday, July 31, 2014

By 6-2 vote, UG commissioners approve 2015 budget


KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- The Unified Government Board of Commissioners officially put the 2015 budget to bed Thursday evening, approving the budget by a 6-2 margin.

The budget will increase property taxes for residents in Bonner Springs and Edwardsville, as the county mill levy was raised by two mills. Residents in Kansas City, Kan., will be a bit luckier this year, as the city mill levy was lowered by two mills.

Combined with the increase of the county levy, the total levy for KCK residents remains flat for 2015.

Unified Government Mayor/CEO Mark Holland said the mill levy increase was appropriate. In his final comment about this year's budget, Holland again called for Wyandotte County's public safety departments to find a way to save dollars.

"We have to find a way to curb these expenses," Holland said, adding that not adequately funding public safety is the biggest threat to Wyandotte County.

Commissioners Jim Walters and Ann Murguia were the two commissioners who voted no on the budget.

Walters, who represents Bonner Springs and Edwardsville on the board, voted against the budget that increases the tax rate of his constituents.

In a comment about his vote, Walters said he understands the loss of $400,000 in state revenue put the UG in a tough place.

However, he said he believed raising taxes to help pay for a new $20 million emergency radio system was not the right thing to do. A previous group of county commissioners voted to approve of it.

"That's an awkward position for us to be in," Walters said. "I don't think the previous commission - if they really thought a tax increase was mandatory - would have passed or approved the purchase without making any accommodation for a new revenue stream. I think the staff had had a year and a half to find (the new revenue stream) to fund it.  I don't think we should increase taxes to do so."

For Murguia, it's the third time she's voted against a budget that featured a tax increase for residents in Wyandotte County.