Vol. 1, Issue 1                                                                                       April 2016
Welcome to my new newsletter!  Thank you for signing up to receive this monthly publication.  I am very excited about this new avenue to share our news stories with you.  Please be sure to share it with your friends and family and have them sign up to receive their own copy here!
- Jim Howell, Chairman, 5th District Commissioner
Join us for a Commission meeting in District 5!

Please join us on Monday, April 18 for a special Board of County Commission meeting at the Derby Welcome Center (611 N. Mulberry, Ste. 200). There will be a meet and greet at 6:00 p.m. and the meeting will follow at 6:30 p.m. Come and meet your commissioners and engage in an evening meeting for your convenience. 


Elephants Arrive at Sedgwick County Zoo -- Get Ready!! 
This month, the Sedgwick County Zoo welcomed six elephants to their facility from Swaziland. They joined the zoo’s remaining elephant, Stephanie, on Friday, March 11. A few years ago, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums updated requirements for accredited zoos. In order to keep its accreditation, Sedgwick County Zoo must have three females, two males, or three elephants of mixed gender by September 2016. 

The new elephant exhibit, “Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley” will be open to the public Memorial Day weekend 2016. 

Who's really in charge? 
All political power is inherent in the people. This is why the conservative majority of the Sedgwick County Commission has chosen to support and work with the legislature on the commonly known “tax lid” trailer bill (SB316) when others, including the League of Kansas Municipalities and the Kansas Association of Counties, are advocating for full repeal. 

The intent of this law, which was enacted last year, is to require voter approval for property tax hikes that surpass reasonable growth calculations. The problem is, without some repairs to the law, conducting an election is simply impossible. In its current form, last year’s law acts as a “de facto property tax lid”. Although nearly all Kansas municipalities desire repeal of this law, that seems unlikely considering its large support. The pragmatic response is to solve the problem.

Along with my testimony, Sedgwick County offered a solution. Our amendment, drafted by our elected officials and staff, creates an election opportunity by developing a new timeline to carry out the provisions. By working with the legislature and stakeholders, our proposed amendment solves the tax lid, empower voters, and enables municipalities to raise additional revenue when approved by the voters. 

The majority of municipalities believe the legislature has violated their home rule authority and right to govern by requiring them to get voter approval before raising taxes that exceed reasonable growth rates. I believe those with this viewpoint have failed to consider a foundational truth that “ All political power is inherent in the people…” Kansas Bill of Rights.
 
Sales tax increases already require your approval. That makes sense considering a recent study which determined that 76% of likely voters favor voter approval of tax increases. I firmly believe that the highest authority of local control is the people we represent. Requiring voter approval of tax hikes recognizes that you (the people) have authority over us (your elected representatives). 

This difference in perspective highlights Sedgwick County. We seem to be the only governing body in favor of placing these restrictions and decisions in the hands of our electorate. I believe this is the right thing to do. We are stewards of your tax dollars and you should have a say when your property taxes exceed a reasonable growth threshold. We have complete faith in the voters to make the best decision through an election. 


Treasurer Launches QLess System for Tag Office Lines
The Sedgwick County Treasurer’s Office recently went live with QLess “Virtual Waiting Line”.  This system will permit customers to “get in line” from a cell phone with texting capabilities, a personal computer, or by coming into a tag office and pulling a number.  “We’ve heard the pleas from our customers; we understand and respect their valuable time.  Our expectation is that customers will no longer have to take an entire day off work to renew a tag or have title work done.” said Sedgwick County Treasurer Linda Kizzire.  

Customers can secure a place in line by selecting a link to one of the four tag offices from the Treasurer’s page on the Sedgwick County website.
 

Kellogg & I-235 Interchange -- Your County Dollars at Work!
You may have seen the work from the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) near the Kellogg and I-235 interchange, as the first phase of this three year project is underway. Sedgwick County stepped up to be a partner with KDOT in Phase I, so we can leverage the support of the state dollars to get this massive project underway. Our $11.6 million investment, 100 percent of the local match, is another demonstration of Sedgwick County’s investment in infrastructure in the Wichita area. The total cost for this project is projected to exceed $103 million which includes all local, state, and federal funds. 

Buildings have been demolished on the north side of Kellogg and the on-ramps from West Street to Kellogg are closed. To follow the progress of this major road construction project, visit  www.235kelloggcentral.com

Sedgwick County has helped with several U.S. 54 (Kellogg) interchange improvements in the past, including $10 million in 2002 for interchanges at Kellogg and Tyler and Kellogg and Maize. While these projects do not fall into Sedgwick County’s road network responsibility, the County believes that these are significant economic drivers for our community – they make it easier for workers, businesses, and visitors to travel through our community and reduce accidents and congestion. 


Commissioners Revise Debt Policy and Set Target Mill Levy
Last week, Sedgwick County Commissioners voted to set a target property tax rate (commonly known as a mill levy) of 29.359 mills for County budgets in 2017 – 2022. In 2023, the mill levy rate is expected to drop to 28.758 and remain in subsequent years. The certified tax rate for this year is 29.383 mills; it funds the 2016 budget. 

Commissioners also voted to adopt a revised debt policy that will reduce the County’s debt capacity and limit the issuance of future debt. This policy prohibits the use of debt to finance operations or maintenance activities and sets criteria under which debt is to be used for capital improvements or unusual equipment purchases. Chairman Jim Howell commented that Sedgwick County is “intentionally going into a more responsible direction” in regards to the debt issuance limit.  

Over the past few years, Sedgwick County’s debt has been about ten percent of budgeted expenditures. The County’s current debt equals 9.67 percent of budgeted expenditures, more than the new maximum of debt. Therefore, the County will be unable to issue debt until the existing amount falls below the nine percent threshold; this is estimated to occur in 2017. Sedgwick County will be able to issue over $7 million in new debt in 2017 and remain under the new debt capacity.  

Commissioner Richard Ranzau added, “By controlling our spending, and setting our priorities, we can borrow less and either use it on existing programs or perhaps give it back to the taxpayers in the form of a tax reduction.” 

Sedgwick County is consistently working to lessen the property tax burden on citizens, especially the poor or citizens on a fixed income. High property taxes are also harmful to economic growth in the community. By approving the two items, Commissioners have proven that they are listening to their constituents and keeping government spending under control and being good stewards of taxpayer money.  Hear more about this story at this link.

Support for COMCARE -- A Public-Private Partnership
Recently, Commissioners heard a presentation from COMCARE staff and local business owner, Jason Van Sickle, regarding a proposed public-private partnership to form a 501(c)3 nonprofit entity which would support COMCARE operations. The purpose of the nonprofit would be to expand public awareness of COMCARE’s services and promote volunteerism, to act as a fundraising arm to support COMCARE, and to utilize private sector expertise in the operation of the organization.  

This proposed sister organization would promote public involvement through awareness and volunteer opportunities, increase the organization’s transparency, improve efficiency, and still maintain oversight by the Board of County Commissioners. COMCARE’s programs and services are deeply intertwined with other county departments and community providers, specifically those in public safety.  By moving to a public-private partnership, there is potential for COMCARE to eventually reduce its dependence on local tax dollars through fundraising efforts. There are also potential cost-savings for other county departments that work in conjunction with COMCARE. 

More details to come as this partnership develops! 

Want to know what's going on in Sedgwick County?
There are several ways you can find out what’s happening at Sedgwick County:
  • Our Commission meetings are held weekly on Wednesday mornings at 9:00 a.m. and available on KPTS Channel 8. The meetings are also streamed live on our website, www.sedgwickcounty.org, and you can find an individual agenda item on demand after the meeting has concluded. Our meetings are also available on our YouTube channel (SedgwickCountyKS). 
  • We have also partnered with the cities of Derby, Bel Aire, Haysville, Park City, and Wichita to provide rebroadcasts of our meetings on their respective Channel 7 stations. Find the specific days/ times on our website. 
  • You can sign up to have the Commission agenda emailed directly to you and sign up to receive the Commissioners’ newsletters! Visit our website, www.sedgwickcounty.org for more information. 
  • To get the latest news, you can follow us on Twitter (@SedgwickCounty), like us on Facebook (facebook.com/sedgwickcounty), watch videos at youtube/SedgwickCountyKS, or read our County Announcements on the website!
 
316-660-9300
525 N. Main, Ste 320, Wichita, KS 67203

Contact Interim Public Information Officer:
Kate Flavin, 316-660-9370
525 N. Main, Ste 343, Wichita, KS 67203

Contact Corporate Communications Manager:
Jill Tinsley, 316-660-9370
525 N. Main, Ste 343, Wichita, KS 67203