Ellis County Commissioners face tough decisions in coming years on how to balance the county’s budget. There are three candidates for the one open seat on the commission, District 1, who think they can can find the best solution. Each one is asking voters to cast a ballot for them Nov. 6 in the general election.
District 1 covers the northwest area of the county, including the city of Ellis. The candidates are Chris Rorabaugh, Democrat, Butch Schyler, Republican, and John Walz, independent.
The Hays Daily News asked each candidate to answer five emailed questions about their views on issues of importance to the residents of Ellis County and the Ellis County Commission.
Below, candidate Chris Rorabaugh kicks off the first of three question-and-answer replies that will run over the course of the next three issues of the paper.
Tell us about your background, where you live, your family, where you’ve worked and what qualifies you as a good candidate for commissioner.
I am married to Becky Rorabaugh and we have four adult children and 13 grandchildren.
I received my Bachelor of Science degree from Fort Hays State in 1975 and my Master’s degree in Educational Administration in 1988.
My experience includes 38 years of teaching social studies and driver education, serving as a school athletic director and a high school principal. I’ve also coached high school basketball, high school track and junior high football for 38 years.
My college education at Fort Hays State includes 15 hours of political science, which includes a teaching endorsement in government.
I retired from teaching full time in 2010 and have spent the last seven years working part time as a property inspector for the City of Hays.
Some of my hobbies include officiating high school football on Friday nights, serving as a starter for high school and junior high track meets in the spring and serving as a referee for college tennis matches.
I’m a 1970 graduate of Ellis High School and after teaching out of the area until 1989, our family moved to Ellis, where we have lived since 1990. Ellis County has played a major role in my career and has provided my family and myself with a great life. Now at this stage in my life, I’m ready to give back to Ellis County, keeping it a great place to live, work and get an education.
Will you allow a mill levy increase to resolve the serious budget shortfall Ellis County faces in years to come.
Increasing the mill levy is not on my list in addressing the budget shortfall.
Will you cut services or employees to balance the budget, and if so, what areas would you cut and how would you make that determination?
We may have to consider looking at attrition in some departments and not replacing those that do retire. Cutting employees is the last thing I would want to do. Health insurance is costing the county $2 million a year, so serious discussion and tough decisions need to be made here. I will demand that we look at expanding the wind farm in Ellis County. It is bringing in close to a million dollars in general revenue to the county for the next 25 years. Let’s see if we can use clean wind energy in Ellis County to help reduce this painful budget and possibly share some of this revenue with the school districts in Ellis County. Everybody in the county would benefit economically by doing this.
Will you support a countywide sales tax to help balance the budget, and if so how much?
I would support a half-cent sales tax, as it would generate approximately $1 million dollars a year in revenue. Nobody likes any type of tax, but the sales tax seems to be the least invasive in our lives, especially when out-of-county residents would generate a large percentage of the revenue.
Ellis County Commissioners in September reduced their salaries 5 percent. Will you cut the salary, health insurance or retirement benefits of county commissioners to reduce county spending?
Yes I would completely cut the three commissioners health insurance and KPERS retirement to zero tax dollars spent. This would save taxpayers approximately a quarter of a million dollars over a four-year term, about $244,000 over four years. I would favor cutting commissioner salaries by 50 percent, thus saving another $120,000 taxpayer dollars over four years.
How can the county help keep young early-career residents in Ellis County?
Everybody is on Facebook, Twitter, and social media in general. We need all departments to utilize social media to keep the public informed on the important — and for sure the good things — that are going on in Ellis County. We need to support local organizations such as “Grow Hays,” as they specialize in helping to start new businesses, retaining and expanding existing businesses, and adding young people to the workforce.