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County Looks To Toe The Line On Mill Levy Increase

By Hannah Alldritt
The Harper County Commissioners met in `Regular Session on July 10 to make some hard decisions regarding the 2018 budget.
Prior to the start of the meeting Jenni Carr, County Extension Agent, was present for Public Comment. Carr asked Commissioners if the new landscaping around the courthouse done by the Master Gardener’s was satisfactory. She also offered to teach a weed identification class if it was ever needed to County employees spraying the ditches.
Michael Garrett, with Horizons Mental Health, presented a budget request to restore the ten percent that was cut from the Horizons budget last year. Commissioners had asked for a five percent budget reduction to be submitted from all appropriation entities in 2018. 
Garrett pointed to a significant increase in the number of hours of service in Harper County over the last seven years: from 3,300 in 2009 to 5,400 hours last year. “We haven’t asked for an increase in eleven years,” Garrett said, “Even when the County was doing well, we didn’t ask for increased revenue. Anything we ask for is need-based.” Commissioner Pence pointed out the decrease in County valuation due to the N.R.P. and asked for an update on the Child Advocacy Center that will be started this year with grant funds. 
There was discussion of a location for the Child Advocacy Center with Commissioner Pence noting that she had been approached about using the old Road and Bridge Building. No decisions were made.
Joanna Kenney, EMS Director, was present to discuss the ongoing search for a medical director. Dr. Gallagher, trauma doctor at Via Christi/St. Francis, is currently looking over state statutes. The County has offered $250 per month for Gallagher to sign off on State- mandated forms for EMS. Kenney also reported that she had been directed by the State to submit last month’s Quality Assurance reports without the signature of a Medical Director.
Discussion then moved to the search for an EMS Director as Kenney’s last day is scheduled for July 25 and so far there has been only one applicant for the position. Assistant to the Commissioners, Melinda McCurley, noted that the applicant was likely not qualified. 
Commissioner Adams asked if Justin Moritz could step in as interim EMS Director and it was decided to call and see if he was in the area. The job posting will also be expanded to more health-care specific and state websites.
Ami DeLacerda, HR Director and the Commissioners, entered into an executive session for the purpose of terminating the employment contract of a Road and Bridge employee. DeLacerda also reported on two travel requests from the Appraiser’s Office and one new hire in the Dept. of Aging/Transportation for a P-T driver. There was discussion on the County holding an art contest, possibly photos or paintings, to display in the Courthouse with themes of Harper County architecture or Harper County through the seasons. Commissioners thought having both a student and adult division would be beneficial but no decisions were made. DeLacerda also scheduled another meeting with all Dept. heads on July 31 to discuss Unemployment Law. 
Commissioners Adams and Waldschmidt proposed a County Employee BBQ for sometime at the end of July at the Courthouse over the lunch hour as a way to show appreciation for County employees.
Melinda McCurley, presented information on the KAC conference in November in Overland Park that all three Commissioners will be attending. Commissioner Pence was named voting delegate, with Waldschmidt as alternate. Commissioners also voted to sign off on changes to the K-Camp bylaw changes.
Next item of business was to approve $1,092 for 18 hours of service from attorney Laurel McClellan during the time between the resignation of the old County Attorney and the installment of David Graham.
A corrected-budget was the next discussion item. After taking out a Pilot program mistake, adding a 50 cent raise for employees and keeping the jail/Sheriff at the 2017 amounts, the mill levy would remain in the 60-61 range. With an increase in employee benefits that would raise that specific line item’s mill rate from 13 to 20 mills, it was suggested to put $320,000 of Plumb Thicket funds back in to balance the budget. “No taxpayers I’ve spoken with want to see an increase [in the mill levy] because they’re pretty sure the school and hospital will go up,” said Commissioner Pence. “Horizons needs money,” Commissioner Waldschmidt added, “but we can’t justify giving them more when we can’t give our own employees merit raises.” Further budget discussion was saved for the afternoon session.
John McClure, Road and Bridge Supervisor, reported on damage done to the Danville Road from a farmer’s dropped disk. Commissioner Pence said she had driven the road earlier that day and not noticed extensive damage in the intersection but did see some gouges by the railroad tracks. A citizen had seen the disk drop and reported it to the County. McClure noted, “We need a policy in place for asking people to pay,” adding that the farmer’s liability insurance could be used to cover damages. McCurley said that State statute calls for highways to be returned to their natural state.
Commissioners also asked for McClure to look at pricing on fuel contracts for three and six month terms.
Commissioners adjourned for lunch and reconvened at 2:00 p.m. for further budget discussion. A request from the Sheriff’s Office for increased staff at the jail was tackled when the Commissioners reconvened after lunch with Sheriff Tracy Chance and Sgt. Justin Carey in attendance. Chance said that the Jail Institute recommended a four-person staff increase at the jail for safety concerns while

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