Vol. 3, Issue 5                                     May 2019
Since February, our Board of County Commissioners have been working on the budget for 2020. Although this is only the third budget I have participated in for the County, it is becoming the most difficult to balance due to rising cost of the services we provide. Our great employees are our largest expense and a recent study by an outside agency has identified that we are falling well behind on compensation we need to retain our highly trained, and dedicated staff.

In 2016, the Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to set a target mill levy of 29.359 mills to fund the County budgets for each year, 2017 through 2022. The action also included a reduction in the rate to 28.758 mills for budget year 2023 and beyond.

When looking at the mill levies across the state and in our region, Sedgwick County is one of the lowest. In 2018, Sedgwick County’s per capita levies totaled $268, the lowest in the state, and on average, the County’s portion of a resident’s total tax bill is less than a quarter of the total bill.

I know our citizens are faced with rising the rising cost of living and that anything that impacts their spending power is a significant concern. Government is also faced with the same cost of living adjustments. If you want to know exactly how much each government’s share of your tax bill represents, go to https://gismaps.sedgwickcounty.org/tax/parcelviewer/ then enter your address for a breakdown. For example, where I live, the state has a 1.5 mill levy, the County is 29.383, Wichita is 32.692, and USD 265 is 58.934 for a total of 122.509 mills. The County represents 24% of my total tax bill.

In 2017, the Commission increased the debt capacity limit slightly, but didn’t make any adjustments to the mill levy rate to take the change into account. While the debt capacity limit has increased slightly, the debt policy still speaks to the Commission’s commitment to the highest possible fiscal standards. For example, the County continues to receive high credit rating from credit rating agencies – just last October, Standard and Poor’s (S&P) Global Ratings reaffirmed the County’s AAA credit rating, the highest rating a government can attain. That report highlighted a number of factors leading to the high rating including the County’s strong management and financial policies and practices, a strong budgetary performance with operating surpluses in the general fund and an adequate economy (with a broad, diverse metropolitan statistical area).

Sedgwick County is the only local government with a self-imposed cap. The decision to reset and reduce the target mill levy was done without consideration for future costs of County business. Personnel costs and utilities have increased. Vehicle costs have increased. But the current Commission is bound by the previous Commission in our ability to fund emerging needs of the organization. We have a fixed mill levy.

Serious discussion should be given to this topic, particularly when the Commission lives well within the State-required property tax lid. The previous Commission did not have the suicide crisis or the drug crisis, the rising cost of road and bridge construction, the additional cost of utilities, and many other constraints that we are currently facing. Cutting services and the never-ending search for economies only goes so far when finding solutions; we need resources to support the growing needs of our community. Those resources are becoming harder to allocate with the limitations set by the target mill levy.

I believe we will pass a budget in August that is within the 2016 mandated mill levy; however, we must look at the future and determine if a commission in 2016 understood that no one knows what the future may bring and what constraints we will face. Now is the time to start the discussions on this issue, not some time in the future when we are faced with a currently unknown crisis that may require funding a little beyond the 29.383 or the 28.758 starting in 2023 mill levy cap that was set in 2016.
Projects in District 4
Road Construction of 61 st St. North between 151 st St. and 167 th St. West
  • 167th St.West is open to traffic
  • 61st St. North to be closed to thru traffic during construction
  • Estimated completion in June

Bridge Replacement on 95 th St. South between Ridge and Hoover
  • Closed to thru traffic during construction
  • Expected completion in July

Crack Sealing of select county roads
  • Temporary lane closures
  • Pilot car operation may result in significant delays

EMS Week Recognizes Critical Component of Public Safety
Dedicated, compassionate, and caring – these are just a few words that describe our EMS crews. Sedgwick County observed EMS Week May 19 to 25. Every day these men and women work hard and devote themselves to providing a safe and secure community for the residents of Sedgwick County.

Sedgwick County EMS is the primary agency responsible for providing pre-hospital care and transportation to persons who become acutely ill or injured. There are 17 EMS posts throughout Sedgwick County, serving a population of approximately 514,000, in a geographic area of approximately 1,000 square miles. In addition to providing transportation, they are committed to providing standby coverage at local events. Watch for the Bike Medic Team at Wichita Riverfest! 
Area Group Honors Local Heroes
The Wichita Area Insurance Professionals (WAIP) held their annual Honoring Heroes Breakfast on Tuesday, May 21. The event shines a light on outstanding individuals in local law enforcement, fire protection, emergency medical services and dispatch departments. Several Sedgwick County employees were honored at the ceremony:
Mary Showalter, Sedgwick County 911 Emergency Dispatcher of the Year
Sergeant Ficken, Sedgwick County Sheriff Officer of the Year
Fire Chief Doug Williams, Sedgwick County Fire District 1 Firefighter of the Year
Alex Thomas, Sedgwick County EMS Paramedic of the Year
Sedgwick County Celebrates Public Works Week
Commissioners declared May 19 to 25 as Public Works Week in Sedgwick County. It is one way to show appreciation for everything Sedgwick County Public Works does to keep our community safe, and improve our quality of life. The 2019 National Public Works Week theme -- “It Starts Here” -- represents the many facets of modern civilization that grow out of the efforts put forth by public works professionals.

Public Works plays a vital role in drainage improvements, environmental services, household hazardous waste, and noxious weed control throughout the county. They also work to provide a safe and efficient transportation system for our residents and visitors by maintaining 600 miles of roads and 600 bridges every year. 

Recently, crews closed Ridge Road near 93rd Street North for an emergency replacement of a culvert that washed out from recent storms. It took Public Works roughly four days to complete the project and open the road back up again. 
Project in process
Finished project
Crews continue to work on the Kellogg/ I-235 interchange rebuild. This first phase is scheduled to be completed this year.
Update on Kellogg/ 235 interchange
Project updates can be found at www.235kelloggcentral.com and include:

  • All ramps are open but temporary lane closures are possible for regular maintenance chores or to complete minor items from the construction punch list.
  • Work will resume on bridge painting as weather moderates but traffic should not be affected.
Crisis Services Offered at COMCARE
Every 12 minutes, someone in the U.S. dies by suicide. It’s the 10th leading cause of death in America. In 2017, a suicide death occurred every four days in Sedgwick County. 

While these numbers are startling, most people thinking about suicide don’t actually want to die, and need help staying alive. Educating yourself and others on the warning signs can play a crucial role in saving someone else's life. Be a voice and help stop suicide.

The Community Crisis Center is your 24-hour resource for mental health assistance and suicide prevention. More than 70,000 calls are processed through the crisis hotline annually. In addition to telephone intervention, the Community Crisis Center provides face-to-face intervention services, including a mobile crisis unit. The 24-hour crisis hotline is (316) 660-7500 or clients can receive services at the 24-hour Community Crisis Center located at 635 N. Main.  

Good mental health is as critical as sound physical health. As the local mental health authority for Sedgwick County, COMCARE is the safety net for adults and children in need of mental health services. For more information about services offered by COMCARE visit here: www.sedgwickcounty.org/comcare/.
Schrant Recognized by DeVore Foundation for Excellence in Public Service
Every year, someone from Sedgwick County, the City of Wichita, and USD 259 is named the recipient of the Excellence in Public Service Award. The award -- sponsored by the DeVore Foundation -- recognizes public service employees who demonstrate a strong work ethic, high performance, and a commitment to community. This year marks the 31st year the award has been given.

Daniel Schrant, P.E. was named the 2019 Excellence in Public Service Award recipient for Sedgwick County. Schrant serves as the Construction Engineer for Public Works and has been with Sedgwick County for six years. Throughout his tenure, Schrant has been involved in a variety of successful projects, including the removal of unused railroad tracks in Garden Plain, KS.

In 2018, Schrant was involved with a project to overlay the pavement on Main Street in Garden Plain. Schrant identified a railroad crossing that had not been utilized for several years. He met with city staff to discuss the project, and learned the City attempted to remove the tracks on two separate occasions, but was denied both times by the railroad. After learning this, Schrant initiated a conversation with the railroad about removing the tracks. The railroad agreed and he developed the plans, secured the permits, and obtained a signed contract with the railroad to allow track removal just three days prior to the start date of work. Three months later, the project was complete. Schrant later received an award from the County Manager for his initiative.

“Daniel is a rare individual who hits on all cylinders,” said Jim Weber, Public Works Deputy Director. “He is an extremely positive person who is passionate about the work we do to serve the public, demonstrates exceptional leadership skills, and is a talented professional engineer who can see the big picture for a project while breaking it down into its essential elements.” 

In addition to his work with Public Works, Schrant is an active member in the community, especially in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education. In 2017, Schrant was involved in bringing the film, “Dream Big: Engineering Our World” to Wichita for one week only, in hopes of inspiring the next generation. Additionally, he partnered with Exploration Place, who showed the film in the digital dome theater during the Regional Science Fair and to all school groups during Engineers Week 2018.

His involvement with the community doesn’t stop there. While he was President of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Schrant toured the Advanced Learning Library while it was under construction where library staff shared their vision of their new facility. After learning that they wanted the library to be more than a collection of books, Schrant developed “Hands on Engineering,” a new kids program that would be offered at the library. He began working with the local engineering community for monthly child-friendly engineering demonstrations, such as engineered sandcastles, floodplains, concrete, truss bridges, ground water supply wells, and water treatment processes. The program has seen overwhelming success and continues to exceed expectations.

Weber adds, “He is committed to the betterment of our community through his work with professional societies, STEM education, charitable organizations, and faith based institutions. The good news is Daniel’s commitment means he’ll have a positive impact for decades to come.”

An active member of the Knights of Columbus since 2002, Schrant can be found regularly serving breakfast to raise funds for various youth activities. Additionally, his family was selected as the 2015 Family of the Year by his Knights of Columbus Council for their parish involvement. Schrant is a Cub Scout den leader, where he organizes monthly den meetings, and makes an effort to introduce engineering topics to his cub scouts through a STEM themed pack meeting. He volunteers as a basketball coach at the local YMCA, organizes the biannual adopt-a-highway event for ASCE, and serves as a judge at the local MATHCOUNTS competition held annually by the National Society of Professional Engineers.

Schrant has been married to his wife Vicki since 2008, and they have four children.
Movement Continues on Wind and Solar Energy Guidelines
The Metropolitan Area Planning Commission’s (MAPC) sub-committee, Advanced Plans, recently discussed options for wind and solar energy operations in Sedgwick County. Options range from leaving the code unchanged, adopting development standards or banning one or both types of facilities from the entire county, or limiting them to certain areas. 

The Committee will discuss the topic again on June 6. MAPC will review the proposal and options that afternoon. 

Commissioners approved a resolution establishing a temporary prohibition of wind and solar energy zoning applications in February. The moratorium will temporarily prohibit the acceptance and processing of an application for a commercial wind or solar energy system until August 12, 2019. 
Honoring our Heroes
Commissioners and County leaders attended a memorial honoring fallen local law enforcement officers on Friday, May 17. This year, Sedgwick County Deputy Robert Kunze, III was given special consideration.  

The memorial honored fallen officers from the following agencies: Wichita Police Department, Sedgwick County Sheriff, Clearwater, Kansas Police Department, and Derby Police Department
County to Participate in Community Events
Wichita’s Riverfest activities will run from May 31 to June 8. Be sure to buy your button and take in the fun festivities over the next few days! Keep an eye out for Sedgwick County officials in the Safelite Autoglass Sundown Parade tonight!  
As the top outdoor family attraction in the State, the mission of the Sedgwick County Zoo is to inspire discovery, appreciation, and respect for animals and nature. It is home to 3,000 animals and nearly 400 species. The Reed Family Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley exhibit is the third largest elephant habitat in the United States. 
Exploration Place, Kansas’ premier science center, inspires a deeper interest in science through creative and fun experiences for people of all ages. Through its permanent and travelling exhibits, education programs, Digital Dome Theater films and special events, visitors can enjoy learning about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  
The Kansas African American Museum endeavors to make the Kansas African American experience resonate with EVERY Kansan. Located in the venerable Calvary Baptist Church, visitors may expand their knowledge and understanding of the Kansas African American story. 
Residents and visitors can gain an understanding of our community and cultural heritage at the Wichita – Sedgwick County Historical Museum. By collecting, preserving, and interpreting materials which reflect the area’s heritage visitors can experience different facets that shaped the community we live in today.  

525 N. Main, Ste 320, Wichita, KS 67203