UG Commission scheduled to approve budget tonight, also to consider extending mask mandate

The Unified Government Commission will meet tonight to approve the UG budget, and also to discuss COVID and extending the mask mandate.

A special session will begin at 6 p.m. tonight, Sept. 9, for a COVID update. The meeting will be on Zoom, on YouTube, on UGTV cable television, and is also accessible by telephone. In addition, the public may view the meeting from the lobby of City Hall.

At 7 p.m. tonight, the UG Commission is scheduled to meet, and on the agenda are several items, including extending the emergency order for the COVID pandemic until Dec. 16, and extending the mask mandate until Nov. 18. The mask order now in effect is scheduled to expire on Sept. 16.

The UG Commission also is scheduled to vote on the UG budget at 7 p.m. tonight. A $420 million budget is proposed.

Commission voted to exceed revenue neutral rate

At the budget hearing on Tuesday night, Sept. 7, the UG Commission discussed budget issues including whether to lower the property tax rate and the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) rate on the Board of Public Utilities’ bills.

The only person who made a statement during the public comment segment at the budget hearing Tuesday night was Murrel Bland, executive director of Business West, who said the organization hoped the increase in valuation can finally mean property tax relief. It’s important to increase the tax base and not the tax rate, he said.

The UG administrator’s proposed budget is a flat mill levy rate, no change from last year for the city and county mill levies. The Kansas City, Kansas, mill levy rate is 38.47 mills and the county mill levy rate is 39.327 mills.

On Tuesday night, the UG Commission voted 7-2 to exceed the revenue neutral rate, which allows the UG to go over the amount they spent last year.

As explained at the meeting by Kathleen VonAchen, UG chief financial officer, the hearing on the revenue neutral rate was the result of state legislation to increase transparency about municipal revenues.

The revenue neutral rate compares revenues from the previous tax year to this tax year. In Wyandotte County, property values have increased over the past year, and also new development has been added here, resulting in more revenues that would come to the UG if the property tax rate stays the same as last year, she said.

Voting no on exceeding the revenue neutral rate Tuesday night were Commissioners Jim Walters and Tom Burroughs.

The commission did not vote on the mill levy on Tuesday night, but during discussion, three commissioners, Walters, Burroughs and Melissa Bynum, indicated they were in favor of lowering the mill levy this year. A one-mill or half-mill drop was mentioned.

“Residential homeowners in Wyandotte County will experience an 8 percent tax increase this year if we do not do anything to adjust the mill levy,” Commissioner Walters said.

He said it appeared to him that most of the increased revenue from residential taxpayers would be going to the reserves. He suggested using the reserves for a tax cut.

Other commissioners pointed out that the 8 percent figure only applied to their part of the tax bill, not to other taxing entities.

Commissioner Melissa Bynum supported Commissioner Walters’ call for an opportunity to make at least a 1 mill lowering of the mill levy rate.

Commissioner Burroughs mentioned that while the city’s mill levy rate has dropped considerably during the past few years, the county’s rate has gone up. Valuation has gone up, and the PILOT fee has gone up, too, he said. He also mentioned the American Rescue Plan Act funds the UG has received. The UG will receive $87 million over two years from the federal government, with much of it going to replace lost revenues in the local budget.

“I believe the budget could absorb the mill cut we discussed,” Commissioner Burroughs said. The cut under discussion would have been to the county mill levy.

Commissioner Burroughs said this has been a very trying year for a number of people in the community who have struggled to get through it, many lost jobs, and many needed rent and utility assistance.

“I believe the timing is right,” he said. “It demonstrates good will by the leadership of Wyandotte County to understand the challenges they have had this year with their finances. I’m supportive of continuing the discussion about lowering the mill levy.”

However, several other commissioners and Mayor David Alvey did not support a reduction in the mill levy this year.

Commissioner Christian Ramirez, while agreeing that the mill rate needs to be lowered, said he doesn’t believe they’re at the perfect time for it yet. Things may be good at the moment, but they don’t know what will happen next year – it’s all unknown, he said. Because of COVID and the pandemic, they don’t know what next year will look like, according to Ramirez.

Commissioner Mike Kane said he didn’t have a crystal ball, but he was here when the commission one year lowered the mill levy, then had to raise it the next year.

“We’re still in a pandemic,” Commissioner Kane said. They don’t know what the future holds and don’t want to put more stress on the budget, he said. He said the UG Commission should start discussing a possible tax cut next January.

Commissioner Jane Philbrook sided with Commissioners Ramirez and Kane, and said she doesn’t know what the future would hold. She said they should concentrate this year on taking care of the infrastructure, such as roads.

Commissioner Brian McKiernan agreed with Commissioner Philbrook, and said it’s time to start digging out from the deterioration of the infrastructure, and improve roads, curbs, sidewalks, sewers and infrastructure.

Commissioner Burroughs said $2 million would not make that much of a difference in infrastructure, and they should figure out how to cut expenses of $2 million out of a $420 million budget. “We have enough reserves to absorb this,” he said.

He warned that the tax burden could become so great that it would create another cycle of poverty.

Mayor Alvey said he receives calls from people about clogged culverts, sidewalk and road repairs, and water running through their yards.

He added it was a hard conversation to have with people and tell them the UG is not generating enough revenue do to that. The UG has been trying not to borrow as much money as it has in the past to keep the debt service down. Compared to Lenexa in Johnson County, operation costs of the UG were about the same, he said. However, in Lenexa, developers were required to install infrastructure and because it was a younger city, it did not have the same level of maintenance costs as Wyandotte County. The mill levy there was lower because their valuations were higher, the mayor said.

He agreed that better infrastructure and lower taxes were needed, with a long-term solution needed, and said the infrastructure is on the point of failure.

Commissioner Harold Johnson said on Tuesday night that the UG’s portion of the local tax bill is less than half.

“The decisions we make need to be done in conjunction with our taxing counterparts strategically, not in competition or critique of one another,” he said.

The discussion about lowering the mill levy needs to be a full-throated conversation across all taxing jurisdictions, and it needs to be long-term, not in the moment, Johnson said.

Other items on the Sept. 9 agenda

Also on the 7 p.m. Sept. 9 agenda:

• A public hearing on creating the Legends Hotel Community Improvement District.
• A request for honorary street signs for Pandarama Preschools on Nebraska Avenue between 7th and 8th streets;
• Agreements between the UG and Turner and Piper school districts for school resource officers;
• Acquiring property for Safe Routes to Schools near Carl Bruce Middle School and Caruthers Elementary School;
• A resolution allowing the Colonial Club to furnish alcohol and allow patrons to drink and consume alcohol on North 6th Street, in front of the Colonial Club, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sept. 11.

The Zoom link for the 6 p.m. meeting Sept. 9 is at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87570007778?pwd=UHRGMFV4S2NLaEk3bmZnK2oxeWlyUT09.

The passcode is 429488. The Webinar ID is 875 7000 7778.

The Zoom link for the 7 p.m. meeting is at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83840023799?pwd=dXdPUW00dFVoQ2MxakZHaXJxWDRPQT09.

The passcode is 024488. The webinar ID is 838 4002 3799.

For information about connecting to tonight’s UG meetings, visit https://www.wycokck.org/Departments/Clerks-Office/BOC-Virtual-Meeting.

UG budget information is at https://www.wycokck.org/Departments/Finance/Budget.

A video of the Sept. 7 UG hearings is online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdXnIH5DEME

To see some past UG budget stories, visit http://www.wyandottedaily.com/ug-tax-cut-appears-unlikely-at-this-time/ and
http://www.wyandottedaily.com/federal-funds-playing-a-role-in-2022-ug-budget/

KCK school board discusses COVID testing for employees

The Kansas City, Kansas, school board is discussing COVID-19 testing for employees who are not vaccinated.

The board did not come to any conclusion or recommendation at the Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 7, meeting, but it could take up the matter again later, according to board president, Randy Lopez.

The KCK school district’s COVID-19 dashboard, https://kckps.org/covid-19-dashboard/, showed that on Sept. 1, the district had 320 students quarantined, 110 confirmed student cases, nine staff quarantined, and 21 confirmed staff cases.

Under the district’s policy, those who have been exposed to COVID and who are vaccinated do not have to be quarantined, if they have no symptoms. Also, if they were correctly wearing masks, they do not need to be quarantined. Testing is recommended.

Quarantines are for those who are unvaccinated and don’t have symptoms but have been exposed to COVID-19, according to the district’s website. Isolation is for people who have symptoms and have been diagnosed with COVID-19. (It is explained in greater detail at https://kckps.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/simplestaffstudent-doublesided-9.2.21.pdf.)

Dr. Anna Stubblefield, superintendent, said they are seeing other districts and organizations pivoting to do what they can to create safe environments. She said staff, board members and community members have asked where the district stood on the question of requiring vaccinations.

The Kansas City, Missouri, school district has required vaccinations or weekly testing, and the Unified Government has a similar requirement, she said.

Also, Dr. Stubblefield said the KCK district now is adjusting its quarantine from 14 days to 10 days to be in alignment with other school districts and the Health Department.

Lopez said he and Dr. Stubblefield had some discussions on the topic of a vaccine and testing policy and wanted to find out what the board thought about the topic. The goal is to keep the students and staff as safe as possible, he said.

Dr. Valdenia Winn, a board member, said she would support a policy for staff to either have a vaccination or get a COVID-19 test weekly.

She asked how many staff members in District 500 were unvaccinated.

Dr. Stubblefield said she didn’t know the number. When the district has positive cases, in order for them not to have to quarantine, the employees show proof of vaccination to the nurse coordinator, she said. However, she doesn’t think the district is collecting that information, she added. If they did collect it, they would have to keep it in a separate file from the personnel file, she said, to protect privacy.

Dr. Winn said opportunities have been provided at some of the district’s schools to get a free vaccine.

Wanda Brownlee Paige, a board member, said she would support a staff vaccination and testing policy.

“I think it’s critical because our state Legislature has mandated we can’t go back to virtual, only in a limited form. So we want to make sure the kids are here and learning. All of us need to do whatever we can to make sure everyone is safe and secure,” Paige said.

They know the students have lost quite a bit, so they’re trying to make it up, she said. According to the Legislature, they can’t do virtual learning, so the district has to keep everyone safe, she added. Whatever the staff role is, the district wants the employee to be there at work, she said.

Janey Humphries, a board member, wanted to know what would be the effect of instituting this policy, if there is already a high number of staff vaccinated, and would it make any difference.

Dr. Stubblefield said if they found they had a high number of staff vaccinated, that would be great. The proposed vaccination or testing policy would let the district know if those who are not vaccinated are asymptomatic, coming into school and possibly spreading the virus, she said. It would also let the district know what it is facing when looking at quarantines, she added. The district would be able to have better accountability, and the testing might indicate how the virus is spreading.

Yolanda Clark, board vice president, said she would be able to support a policy for vaccination or weekly testing. However, she would struggle with mandating that the staff be vaccinated, she added.

Dr. Stacy Yeager, a board member, asked if most of the cases seemed to be coming from students or from teachers.

Dr. Stubblefield said there have been some positive cases where staff had to quarantine because of close contacts and they had not been vaccinated.

At the Kansas City, Missouri, school district and UG, the vaccinated staff members do not have to use their personal leave time if they are required to quarantine, and unvaccinated employees do have to use their personal leave time, Dr. Stubblefield said. Typically, if employees are quarantined, they are not vaccinated and in close contact with a positive case.

“We’ve asked our teachers to do so much, in addition, they worked when the vaccine was not available,” Dr. Yeager said. “I’m not in support of mandating a vaccine for our staff, I believe it’s a personal choice. I don’t feel we should impact their leave or anything different, or ‘have a penalty’ for not being vaccinated.”

Also, she said it’s important to listen to the policymakers and those who are over the schools to determine if the vaccine mandatory requirements are for students or for staff, she said. She would not support a mandatory vaccine, she said.

“Sometimes we make decisions based on what other people are doing, that may or may not work for us,” she said. Would substitutes or bus drivers be required to have a vaccine, she asked.

Later in the meeting, it was stated by a board member that the proposal would be for all employees; however, the board didn’t have a written proposal in the agenda at this time.

Board member Maxine Drew said the board needs to meet in a closed, executive session, and then come out with a unified decision on this policy issue.

Paige said it’s good the school board is discussing this issue openly, because people need to know. She keeps getting questions about whether they’re going to close down the schools, and answers no, the Legislature is not allowing virtual education. Anyone who comes into contact with the kids should be in the policy, according to Paige.

“We all need to be safe,” Paige said.

Dr. Yeager said sports was a big issue. Last year surrounding school districts did not shut down, and kept school and sports going. A lot of parents were upset that KCK canceled sports, she added.

“How are we insuring we’re giving our kids a fair advantage in that area,” Dr. Yeager asked.

Dr. Stubblefield said several school districts are doing a “test to play” policy. If students test positive, the close contacts have to be tested. If negative, the students are allowed to play.

Dr. Stubblefield said the district is building the capacity for surveillance testing in the schools.

Dr. Yeager said the board needs more information on policies, including those of surrounding school districts, to help them make informed decisions.

In general, according to Dr. Stubblefield, a team has to cancel if there are a number of students quarantined and it does not have enough team members left to compete.

Humphries asked for more information on the process of testing, including what days they would be tested on. She said it appears this proposed policy is not taking the choice to get vaccinated away from employees.

Paige said last year, with COVID cases between 40 and 50, the district shut down in-person learning. Currently, at 42 cases a day, it is still disturbing, Paige said.

“Our numbers were extremely high last year, and that’s why we shut it down,” she said. Districts around America have been shut down now, she added.

Dr. Yeager asked for comparisons within Wyandotte County, and said Piper, Turner and Bonner Springs all held games.

“We’ve been very consistent in how we approached the pandemic, and always saying our students and staff safety comes first,” Lopez said.

He applauded the board for always wanting to protect the students.

He outlined the board’s concerns, including more information, a timeline, policy language, keeping the staff as safe as they can be, and the potential effect on the staff, including shortage of staff. He said they should speak to the NEA and receive their opinions as well.

Paige said the least thing the district can afford now is for more people to get sick. Assistant principals are helping out, teaching classes, and Paige commended them for stepping up and filling the void. But she asked who will replace them, as they’re running out of people to fill the gaps.

Dr. Yeager asked how much it would cost the district to get N95 masks to protect people at a higher level. Humphries asked if that would make a difference.

Dr. Winn said the proposed policy has a personal choice. With the new variants, it needs to be presented as Paige stated, she said. By wanting to vaccinate as many staff and students as possible, you’re not invading anybody’s personal choice or privacy, she said. For those who don’t participate in vaccinations, there has to be the other side, a weekly test, she said.

Dr. Stubblefield said in response to a question from Paige that there is state funding available to pay for the tests if the district requires them. She said she could bring back details for the board at a later date on the process.

Dr. Yeager said she would like to track if the COVID-19 case was from a student or teacher. Dr. Stubblefield said some of the information can’t be given at the building level because it might identify individuals. However, they could get information on the totals for the district.

Clark asked about the policy and procedure on who is required to be quarantined, and Dr. Stubblefield said this information is available on the district’s website.

The school board meeting is online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7WCxCbfsx8.

Vaccines, tests available

COVID-19 testing will continue on Wednesday, Sept. 8, in Wyandotte County.

The former Kmart building at 7836 State Ave., a Unified Government Health Department vaccination site, will be open for testing from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and for free COVID-19 vaccinations from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. There are incentives being offered for Wyandotte County residents, while supplies last.

Mobile vaccines can be requested online at WycoVaccines.org or by calling 3-1-1 (913-573-5311). For more information on the Unified Government Health Department’s vaccine schedule, see WycoVaccines.org.

COVID-19 vaccines and tests are available at other locations in Wyandotte County, including some pharmacies. For locations and availability, visit www.vaccines.gov.

COVID-19 testing from WellHealth will be available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 8, and through Friday at the Kansas National Guard Armory, 100 S. 20th. The site is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Free vaccinations at KU Health System are open to the public, and appointments are required. Current patients may use MyChart to make an appointment. Others may call 913-588-1227 or visit kansashealthsystem.com/vaccine to make an appointment to get vaccinated. KU Health System currently is vaccinating residents of Kansas and Missouri who are 12 or older, by appointment only. Those under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian throughout the appointment.

Free testing is also available from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays at Vibrant Health Cordell D. Meeks Jr. Clinic, 4313 State Ave.

The Village Initiative, 3004 N. 27th St., Kansas City, Kansas, is sponsoring COVID-19 testing every other Wednesday. The next testing is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 8. Along with the COVID-19 testing, there will be a food giveaway. There will be $20 gift cards to members of the community that receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Appointments are not required.

Case numbers reported

The University of Kansas Health System reported 106 total COVID-19 patients on Tuesday, Sept. 7, an increase of three since Friday, according to Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control. Fifty-nine patients with the active virus were inpatients on Tuesday, an increase of four from Friday. Only 10 of the 59 were fully vaccinated. Three patients at the hospital died on Monday, bringing the total of deaths to 503 at the hospital since the pandemic began. Most of the deaths were among the unvaccinated. Seventeen COVID patients were in the intensive care unit on Tuesday, an increase of one from Friday. Eleven patients were on ventilators, a decrease of one. Forty-seven other patients were still hospitalized from COVID, but were out of the acute infection phase, a decrease of one since Friday.

Wyandotte County reported a cumulative 22,981 cases on Tuesday, Sept. 7, an increase of 246 cases since Friday, Sept. 3, according to the Unified Government Health Department’s COVID-19 webpage. There were a cumulative total of 338 deaths on Tuesday, an increase of three deaths since Friday.

On Wednesday, Sept. 1, the Unified Government Health Department reported that 46.66 percent of Wyandotte County residents had received at least one dose of vaccine. Those completing their vaccinations totaled about 39.84 percent.
The percentage of Wyandotte County residents who were age 12 and older who had received at least one dose was 57.4 percent.

The Mid-America Regional Council reported 202,286 cases in Greater Kansas City, a nine-county area. There were a total of 2,726 deaths. The daily average of new hospitalizations was 123.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported 377,123 cumulative COVID-19 cases in Kansas on Friday, Sept. 3, an increase of 4,952 since Wednesday, Sept. 1. There was a total of 5,630 cumulative deaths reported statewide, an increase of 49 since Sept. 1.

The KDHE reported 70,526 cumulative COVID-19 cases in Johnson County on Sept.3, an increase of 465 since Sept. 1. Leavenworth County had 9,234 cases on Sept. 3, an increase of 72 since Sept. 1. Sedgwick County (the Wichita area) reported 68,486 cases on Sept. 3, an increase of 1,086 since Sept. 1.

On Friday, the KHDE reported 10,637 cumulative cases in Douglas County (the Lawrence area), an increase of 83 since Wednesday. Riley County (the Manhattan area) had 7,176 cumulative cases, an increase of 40. Shawnee County (the Topeka area) had 22,437 cumulative cases, an increase of 302 cases.

On Tuesday afternoon, there were a cumulative 40,221,535 COVID-19 cases in the United States, with a cumulative 650,274 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Links

Visit gogettested.com/Kansas and https://wyandotte-county-covid-19-hub-unifiedgov.hub.arcgis.com/pages/what-to-do-if-you-think-you-have-covid-19 for more testing sites.

Wyandotte County residents may contact the Health Department at wycohelp.org to sign up for a test to be delivered to their home.

For more details about free COVID-19 testing offered by the UG Health Department, visit https://www.facebook.com/UGHealthDept or call 3-1-1.

To view the mask order in Kansas City, Kansas, visit https://www.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/mask-mandate-resolution-r-47-21-effective-august-6-through-september-16-2021.pdf and https://www.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/ug-issues-mask-order-for-kck-and-other-portions-of-wyco.pdf.

UG tax cut appears unlikely at this time

A tax cut does not appear likely after hearing Unified Government commissioners’ comments at Thursday night’s budget meeting.

UG Chief Financial Officer Kathleen VonAchen presented two options for the commission with slight tax reductions.

She had been asked by Commissioner Melissa Bynum and other commissioners to present some options of what a tax reduction would look like.

While Commissioners Jim Walters and Tom Burroughs were in favor of cutting taxes, some of the other commissioners were not, at least not at this time.

Commissioner Brian McKiernan said these options were coming “late in the game” for the 2022 budget. The UG Commission is scheduled to vote on the budget next week.

The local government is still getting back on its feet from a cash flow perspective currently, he said, and the UG needs to invest more in infrastructure, he said. He was in favor of “staying the course” for the 2022 budget, and considering a tax cut in the 2023 budget.

The administrator’s proposed budget of over $400 million kept the same mill levy rates as last year, however, the assessed valuations have gone up throughout the county, which could result in a slightly higher tax bill for some residents.

Commissioner Angela Markley agreed with Commissioner McKiernan. When the commission lowered the mill levy by 6 mills previously, in different years, it did so as part of a long-term strategic plan, according to Commissioner Markley. She said she would like to UG to look at a longer-term strategy for reductions in the future.

Commissioner Christian Ramirez agreed and said he felt personally frustrated, that this information should have been brought to the commission months ago. Since budget adoption is scheduled a week away, he said he could not vote on it in that time and needed more time to go over it.

“Since the budgeting season started, I have at every opportunity suggested that we consider reducing the mill levy,” Commissioner Walters said. The fact that the staff didn’t respond to it until tonight, and then commissioners were reasonably concerned about the late-breaking information, was disappointing to him, he said.

He talked about the large reserves that are planned for the 2022 budget.

“It appears we have just gotten caught flat-footed and don’t have projects that we think are ready to go, even though millions of dollars from ARPA have been in our possession for months,” Commissioner Walters said.

He said he didn’t want to completely redo the budget, but if they consider a mill levy reduction and change nothing internally in the budget, except reducing the reserves, it would have no impact on anything that has already been presented, but would give taxpaying residents some relief.

To the point that reducing the mill levy is a long-term goal, Commissioner Walters said it’s a one-year commitment. The commission will have the opportunity to adjust the mill levy in later years.

“I’m not convinced by anything I heard tonight that we should not consider a mill levy reduction,” he said.

Commissioner Bynum said the options presented by Von Achen on Thursday night were the result of the mayor asking commissioners two meetings ago to send in questions. She sent in questions about the effect of a 1 mill reduction on the county side, and a ½ percent off the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) fee on the Board of Public Utilities’ bill.

She added she had been asking for a mill levy reduction for a number of years also. She said it was worthy of more consideration. She added she is going on record to have serious, deliberative and strategic conversations about tax relief for the 2023, 2024 and 2025 budget. If the commission doesn’t come to a consensus for this budget cycle, it should start early for the next one, to consider bringing some level of tax relief to the community, she said.

Commissioner Tom Burroughs said in his experience, he has seen budgets presented in a manner where things they hold dear are hurt or damaged because of a reduction in funds. Calling out the jail or employee wages pulls at people’s heartstrings, he said, and then they say they can’t do that.

The 2022 UG budget includes an amount below $30 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding, out of a total of $79 million being received by the UG from ARPA, according to UG officials.

Commissioner Burroughs suggested the UG could generate revenues in the community by putting people to work, and getting the funds out to the community, instead of putting them in the reserves.

“Every year we are told we are broke, there’s no money and we can’t do anything,” Commissioner Burroughs said. However, this year they are sitting on cash, with extra funds available, he said.

“I am supportive of a mill rate reduction in the county and city,” Commissioner Burroughs said. “Our budget can absorb it.”

Commissioner Gayle Townsend said she agreed more with Commissioners McKiernan and Markley. The UG is the only entity that is charged with supplying major services such as infrastructure and public service, she said. Only after it does that, should it start to cut the mill rate, she said.

In the past, when the UG Commission cut the mill levy rate, it did not result in a decrease in the checks that taxpayers were writing, she said. It was a combination of the valuation increasing and other taxing entities setting their mill rates, according to Commissioner Townsend.

Commissioner Harold Johnson said other taxing agencies in Wyandotte County should be having the same discussion about reducing the mill levy. The city and county mill levies, that the Unified Government sets, are only 46 percent of the property tax bills, he noted. Schools, the community college and library levies make up the rest of the property tax bills. There needs to be a conversation with these other groups in the future, he said.

Mayor David Alvey discussed a chart comparing Wyandotte County to other jurisdictions, including Johnson County. He said the infrastructure is older in Wyandotte County, requiring more repairs. The county doesn’t have the funding now to fix all the curbs and have the storm sewers it needs, according to the mayor. Fifty-nine percent of the UG’s budget goes to public safety, he said, and no one is asking for cuts in public safety coverage.

Also, 70 percent of the UG budget goes to employees, he added.

Mayor Alvey said residential tax reductions would have to be several hundred dollars before people would notice them. A one-mill reduction would save a resident of a $500,000 home about $57 a year, he said. But one mill generates revenues that would pay for about 10 miles of road for the UG, he added.

Commissioner Jane Philbrook agreed with Commissioners Johnson and Ramirez about meeting with other jurisdictions. She added that Commissioner Bynum has been advocating for that since being elected. She said she hears from constituents about the need for good roads, code enforcement and safe parks.

Commissioner Mike Kane said he was concerned that they were still in a pandemic, and they don’tknow what will happen in the next 10 to 12 months. He also said a lot of employees are leaving the UG and 3 percent raises were not enough.

He also wanted more time to work on a strategy, and said one week was not enough. He thought they should start soon, and figure out in January what they can do for next year.

The UG Commission didn’t take any official action on the budget at the meeting Thursday, and could make changes if they wanted next Thursday.

The commission took a nonbinding straw poll on whether to add an investigator position in the Sheriff’s Department, after a presentation by Sheriff Don Ash. The position was recommended by Sheriff Ash, who talked about the increasing number of crimes being investigated by the Sheriff’s Department, including crimes at the local parks, which the Sheriff’s Department has jurisdiction over.

Commissioners voted unanimously in the nonbinding straw poll to fund the additional investigator position.

Another nonbinding straw poll that received unanimous approval was moving $250,000 from the parks operations fund balance to pay for a modified park on Hutton Road near the new Piper fire station. The idea was proposed by Commissioner Kane.

Running for re-election in November are Mayor David Alvey, Commissioners Tom Burroughs, Gayle Townsend, Mike Kane, James Walters and Jane Philbrook.

The UG Commission will have a public hearing on exceeding the revenue neutral rate and a final budget public hearing at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 7. The meeting will be at the fifth floor meeting room at City Hall, 701 N. 7th St., Kansas City, Kansas. Because of the risk of COVID-19, the public has been seated in the City Hall lobby, where they can make comments. The meeting also have been on Zoom and accessible by telephone.

Then, the UG Commission is scheduled to adopt the budget at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 9.

For information about access to the meetings, visit https://www.wycokck.org/Departments/Clerks-Office/BOC-Virtual-Meeting.

The budget details are contained in a budget book of almost 1,000 pages online at https://xfer.wycokck.org/public/file/XwtZzjJiCUWudaJv1Z2WUw/Unified%20Government%202021%20Amended%202022%20Proposed%20Budget.pdf. There is also a slide presentation about the budget online at https://www.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/finance/documents/2022-administrators-budget-presentation.pdf.

Thursday’s UG Commission budget discussion is online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBH8GamvxhY.

To see an earlier story on the UG budget, visit http://www.wyandottedaily.com/federal-funds-playing-a-role-in-2022-ug-budget/.