Ellis County’s 2019 budget proposes spending $2.4 million over expected income. Raising the mill levy will not fix this. It’s a matter of spending more than we take in — we need to learn to live within our means. This overspending is unsustainable.
Priority one is the Ellis County taxpayer. Many of them live from paycheck to paycheck and can’t spend $100 when they only have $50. For the past few years we have moved money from capital accounts and using it to pay for day-to-day operations, hoping that someday in the future additional tax revenues would rebound or appear. Painfully, the reality is that we as a county can no longer rob Peter to pay Paul.
It is absolutely necessary that we get control of spending in Ellis County now and not place this burden on future commissioners. Each and every county elected official and department head needs to change how they operate. I know that department heads have started working on this, but it was also made abundantly clear that this is not a popular idea with elected officials or employees. We were elected by the taxpayers of Ellis County to make hard decisions when it comes to spending and that’s what we need to do now and in the future.
We received a letter from Ellis County attorney Tom Drees which was addressed to our county administrator in which he claimed his department is $14,937 down from what he claims is necessary to adequately fund his department and imply the threat of a lawsuit with his declaration that Kansas law “requires the county to adequately fund the county attorney.” It appears Mr. Drees believes the courts should decide what constitutes “adequate funds” and not the Ellis County Commission, whose members have been elected by taxpayers to make these very decisions.
I believe this thinly veiled threat of legal action is unappreciated, unwise and in very poor taste. Particularly with a requested budget of $924,787.00 — which has risen steadily each year from his budget of 2015 at $771,416. His budget has increased 8.5 percent over this period and let me point out that inflation has risen less than 2 percent over the past few years. Comparable counties such as Barton and Ford have larger staffs and significantly lower budgets for 2018 of $702,000 and $824,000, respectively.
My vote on the 2019 budget will ultimately depend on what steps we as a commission are willing to take to bring spending in line with revenues. I look forward to the suggestions of my fellow commissioners.
Ellis County Commissioner