County Commissioners met with County Attorney Terri Johnson today in order to discuss upcoming budget-related issues generated by recent concealed carry legislation. House Bill 2052 amends several longstanding statutes, and these statutes present budget quandaries for Kansas counties.
Bourbon County recently applied for and received a 6 month exemption from HB 2052, but beyond that point, the county will have to implement potentially costly measures to remain exempt for the next 4 years.
Several suggestions were made to help solve the problem at hand, whether to implement adequate security to remain exempt from concealed carry in county buildings or let the law take its course. In any event, County Attorney Terri Johnson reported that concealed carry would be in effect with no exemptions in January 2018, unless legislation is reversed.
In the meantime, Bourbon County Commissioners must decide whether to implement security measures in the interim or take no action. “The way the law is written, you either take the signs down, allow the concealed carry in, or if you don’t wish to do that, then you have to provide adequate security,” Johnson said.
These security measures, however, would require additional staff and scanning equipment. Discussion centered around the expense that would be generated in securing the entire courthouse versus securing only one floor of the building. County Custodial Supervisor David Neville pointed out that the most effective way to prevent unlawful weapons from entering the courthouse would be to secure the front door of the building. “That would be the most effective by far,” said Commissioner Harold Coleman, “but it would also be the most expensive by far.” Despite the expense, Johnson reported that both Lynn and Miami Counties have implemented building security at the entrances for their buildings.
Johnson suggested securing just the 3rd floor of the courthouse, which contains the courtroom.“We as a county are responsible for the safety of the inmate, and for others,” Johnson said. If commissioners were to adopt this strategy, Johnson said that the county would “probably need another person” on duty, which would be less of an expense than the original proposal of hiring 3 new personnel, one for each courthouse floor. Johnson brought forward the idea that a deputy hired for courthouse security could also work for the Sheriff’s office when court was not in session. “If it’s going to cost taxpayer dollars,” Warren said, he would like to meet with the Chief Judge to discuss adequate security measures before any decisions are made.
Commissioner Barbara Albright brought up a logistics issue involving vacation time for the proposed deputy position. Sheriff Gray said that the county would be looking at a minimum of two armed guards for the 3rd floor, but that arming an existing county security official would reduce spending. “If you could incorporate the Bailiff, that would take away half of that cost,” said Gray.
According to Johnson, the county is exempt from any liability associated with the implementation of concealed carry in county buildings should the county decide to forgo the 4-year exemption. In addition, the bill states that jails, other law enforcement agencies and schools still have the authority to prohibit concealed carry in their buildings.
In addition, commissioners also met with County Public Works Director Marty Pearson in order to address ditching work. Warren suggested parking graders during dry weather in order to put those employees on other currently pressing tasks. “If we’ve got a grader just running his grader up and down the roads so he can keep his job, we’re not doing the right thing,” Warren said. “Dry weather’s the time that you ditch. I think we need to look at how we use our graders and maybe emphasize that we need to be ditching.”
Commissioner Harold Coleman asked about the process for ditching, to which Pearson replied that the county must report the coordinates at which they will be digging before they begin. “It would be great to see some ditches cleaned out,” said Commissioner Barbara Albright. Albright pointed out that the ditch by the Shead farm is one that needs to be done soon, to which Pearson agreed.
In other business:
- Terry Sercer presented a rough version of the county budget,“For the most part I’ve used the 2013 budget to create the 2014 budget,” Sercer said. “I have nothing on my agenda except to finish the budget in the next two weeks,” Sercer said. Sercer also mentioned that at the start of the process for last year’s budget, the mill levy was projected to rise 7+ mils, but the budget was pared down until there was no change in the mill levy from the past year. Sercer reported that the projected increase in the mill levy for 2014 was 6.7 mil, but that this number was expected to drop drastically as the budget nears its final form. “One year we started 10 mils, 11 mils over. This is a real rough,” Sercer said of the budget and current projected mill levy increase. “It’s always a heart attack when you first look at it.” Sercer reported that 4.6 mil of that projected rise was due to increased spending mandated by changes in expenses, such as KPERS going up 10% and an 8% projected rise in the cost of health insurance.
However, Sercer reported that some areas of possible revenue that could reduce the estimated mill levy had not been factored in, such as revenue from tax delinquent properties.