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Ellis County faces fiscal cutbacks

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

Organizations that receive funding from Ellis County were given warning Monday night the purse strings will be tightened for fiscal 2014.

While discussing the 2013 budget and later in commissioners' reports, Ellis County Commissioner Swede Holmgren wanted everyone to know tough times are ahead.

"I understand for 2014, 'austerity' is going to become a household word," Holmgren said at Monday's meeting at the Ellis County Courthouse. "Money is just not going to be available.

"We need to look hard at some of these programs, that we can either reduce or selectively cancel."

Ellis County Administrator Greg Sund will contact organizations that receive funding and set up times for them to interview with commissioners.

"As you're aware, we're doing priority-based budgeting to some extent for the county," Sund said. "There's no reason we don't hold subsidized organizations to that standard also."

"Somehow, we need to present to our affiliates, whether it's (Hays) Arts Council or (Ellis County) Historical Society -- or whoever it is -- that the budget strains are only going to get tighter," Holmgren said. "At some point, there are going to be services we no longer can provide. And there are going to be tough decisions that the county commissioners -- in conjunction with our affiliates and our department heads -- we're going to have to make.

"The budget for 2014 is going to be real tough."

Sund said the county likely will start receiving less money, too, using as an example the federal dollars the state receives for roads.

Kansas is a recipient state, receiving more funds than it pays in. Donor states, which pay more than they get back, are lobbying to get all of their allotment back, Sund said.

In other business, commissioners:

* Approved an amended motion to pay Commerce Bank for the cost of replacing an air conditioning compressor at the county-owned building at 718 Main.

The air conditioner compressor, which cost $20,027, was replaced without the commissioners' prior knowledge. Commissioners requested prior knowledge before future repairs.

The motion was amended to seek recovery of $1,577 for sales taxes on the purchase.

* Chose Feb. 18 for a date to have a commission planning session to discuss priorities for the 2014 budget and any projects or policies commissioners would like to pursue.

*  Approved all appointments and designations of the reorganization process.

* Discussed the High Risk Rural Road program.

* Discussed with Rural Fire Chief Dick Klaus the purchase of two water trucks for Rural Fire District No. 1. Bids are expected to be back next week.

* Received the monthly financial report for December.

* Received the 2013 budget document.

* Discussed the Capital Improvement Plan. The final draft should be completed in the next few weeks.