Jackson County looks at tight budget for agencies

Six straight years without a tax increase have led to six straight years of budget cuts for Jackson County government during the administration of County Executive Mike Sanders.

Expect more of the same in year seven. The county Legislature is considering a $300.8 million spending plan for 2013.

That’s $8.5 million less than this year, mostly due to state funding reductions. Already that’s resulted in nearly three dozen positions cut from the workforce, mostly in the assessment department and the county prosecutor’s office.

Sanders warned all county departments months ago that they would have to cope with flat or reduced budgets in the year ahead. However, outside agencies seeking county tax dollars to support their operations didn’t take that hint.

More than half of the 40 nonprofit, social service organizations and quasi-governmental agencies that got county funding in 2012 asked for increases in 2013. Plus five new groups came forward for funding.

Several programs are aimed at providing health care to the needy. Several provide food assistance and youth programs. Tax dollars also go each year to help pay for the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration and the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Most if not all of those requesting aid can expect to be disappointed if they thought they might get increases, while some will go away empty-handed when the Legislature finalizes its work next week.

Budget committee chairman Greg Grounds politely made that clear as representatives of various groups took turns making their pitches Tuesday in the second and final day of budget hearings.

“Every one of these organizations is important,” Grounds said, but he warned that “things are tight.”

Sanders set aside a pot of money equal to about 1 percent of the overall budget for outside agencies. It’s up to the nine legislators to divvy it up.

For the current year, the total was $3.3 million, with largest amounts going to Children’s Mercy Hospital, at $430,000, and $337,488 for the Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center.

Requests for the coming budget year are up 34 percent, to $4.45 million.

A decision on which agencies win or lose out on county funding won’t be known until Monday.

During last year’s budget deliberations, things were similarly tight, so some agencies went away empty-handed.