Joco 913

Commission’s approved 2018 budget cracks $1 billion

Under the budget, $31.1 million would go to to the library system. Internet access is a popular feature of the Johnson County Central Resource Library in Overland Park.
Under the budget, $31.1 million would go to to the library system. Internet access is a popular feature of the Johnson County Central Resource Library in Overland Park. The Kansas City Star

A 2018 budget with a maximum spending limit of $1.06 billion was approved by the Johnson County Commission June 8, paving the way for a public hearing on July 31.

The budget will be published for comments at 7 p.m. in the commission chambers in Olathe. From this point on, commissioners cannot increase the spending. The final budget is approved in August.

This is the first year the county’s total proposed budget has cracked the $1 billion amount. That figure includes spending from all revenue sources, including ones that are user-funded, like the county wastewater system.

The spending from property tax revenue alone would be $250.8 million, with $189.6 million going to the county taxing district, $31.1 million to the library system and $30 million to the park and recreation district.

The mill levy would remain flat at 26.607 mills. Of that, 19.59 mills supports the county district, 3.915 mills for libraries and 3.102 mills for parks. A mill equals $1 of tax per each $1,000 of taxable value.

Commissioners moved the budget forward with few changes from the one presented by County Manager Hannes Zacharias in April. They also kept alive the intention of a roll-back in the taxing rate. Zacharias raised that possibility in the original budget, saying $2.4 million in unspecified spending was being held out for that purpose.

But a few loose ends must be tied up before the county commits to a lower tax rate. County financial planners want to wait for some values to be set on property covered by industrial revenue bonds to know for sure what rollback to set, said Scott Neufeld, county budget director.

The Kansas budget’s impact on county revenues was also a concern, but Neufeld said the most recent work by legislators has left no significant impact on county funds.

“Right now, all signs indicated that even though this is a constant mill levy budget we will be seriously contemplating this rollback in August,” Neufeld said.

The commission did make a couple of changes from the originally proposed budget. Members decided to fully fund a request for $544,510 for advance voting postcards and expenses for the 2018 election. They also approved adding six full-time equivalent employees to the library system’s services, information technology and training.

Also on Thursday the commission heard a report from county public health and crime experts who have been tracking the use of opioids.

The overuse of such drugs as hydrocodone, oxycodone and heroin have made headlines the past couple of years, but although these drugs are showing up with increasing frequency in other areas, court filings in Johnson County have remained relatively flat, said Robert Sullivan, criminal justice coordinator. Stimulants and marijuana remain the drugs of choice in the criminal system, with 70 percent of filings coming from those drugs.

When it comes to opioid cases, there is a significant difference in the numbers between county residents and non-residents, statistics show. Cases involving opioids among residents fell 37 percent from 2015 to 2016, while non-resident cases during that same time took an upswing.

The county tracked resident and non-resident use of the three top opioids, but hydrocodone and oxycodone showed downward trends since 2012. Heroin, however, remained steady among residents and was sharply higher among non-residents.

There were 15 filings involving heroin in 2016 after a spike of 33 the previous year among residents. Other years the numbers ranged from 12 to 19. Among non-resident court filings, the number of heroin cases went from eight in 2012 to 19 in 2015 and 27 in 2016.

However this was data derived from the criminal justice system. Sullivan said the officials also looked at other data from emergency medical records that may indicate a heroin or opioid overdose. Those showed an increase of 32 percent from 2014 to 2015 and another 29 percent from 2015 to 2016.

Sullivan did not offer a theory behind the numbers.

“I’ve talked a lot on what but very little on why because we just started this process,” he told commissioners. But the numbers could indicate that opioid use in Johnson County is in the early stages of emerging, he said.

“While we’re not seeing (opioid overdoses) from a criminal justice perspective yet, I think we’re in a great opportunity to see that we don’t have an opioid epidemic in Johnson County,” Sullivan said. “If we could partner with the medical community I think we could get way out in front of this.”

The county Mental Health Center will host a panel on opioid misuse from 8:30 a.m. to noon June 29 at the Ball Conference Center, 21350 W. 153rd St. in Olathe.