Thursday, May 26, 2011

Riley County Commission

May 26, 2011
Joan Strickler, observer

Commissioners Johnson and Lewis present. Johnson presiding. Commissioner McCulloh joined the meeting at 9:00 a.m.

County Attorney Barry Wilkerson described a new communications system recently installed that allows visual presentations to be made to the court. He said the impact of the cuts in mental health funds are being felt by his office as well as the overall local corrections system. More persons with mental illness are jailed with jail personnel responsible for the administration of psychotropic medications. Three or four crimes have been committed by persons with mental illness including the rape of an elderly woman. The medications needed are not available in generics adding to costs for the County. He sees the cutbacks in mental health services as shifting costs to the local level, providing no savings to taxpayers.

Information and Technology Director Robert Nall described plans to equip the Commissioners room with a new wireless public address and projection system. The two projects can be combined and save costs if done together rather than separately.

County Counselor Clancy Holeman reviewed plans for public meetings to discuss proposed Resolution #8 to provide for the assessment of costs to re-pave paved township roads. In addition to the legal document itself, a “laypersons’ version will describe changes proposed.

Grant Bannister, Indigent Defense Panel Attorney, described the work of the attorneys assigned to represent indigent clients. The panel was established in the mid-50’s and is composed of six attorneys. Many local attorneys have served on the panel over the years. They serve clients in a variety of situations including child in need of care cases. In such cases not only is the child entitled to an attorney, but the parents and/or grandparents are as well and may be eligible for free representation. Such cases involve a considerable amount of the panel’s time. Other assignments may include driving offenses, domestic battery, child support, theft, damage to property and the full range of juvenile offenders cases. There also have been some assignments involving murder. With the cuts to mental health services more cases arise out of involuntary commitment and care and treatment hearings. In answer to a Commissioner’s question, Bannister said a substantial number of cases are Ft. Riley related.

Katie Morris, K-State Research and Extension Office of Local Government, presented the Annual Kansas County Fiscal Conditions and Trends Report. The study indicates there generally has been a trend for counties to turn to “other” sources of revenue rather than the property tax, particularly through user fees and charges, but a countervailing trend is putting pressure back on the property tax. Recessions occurring in 2001 and late 2007 ending in June of 2009, coupled with the loss in State aid to local governments, has put pressure back on the property tax. Riley has handled this pressure better than many counties in that it is taxing at 63% of its sales tax capacity which is 81%. Sales tax capacity reflects the county’s relative taxable retail sales per person. In 2009, (the final year of the report), Riley County had a fiscal capacity of 81, indicating that its per capita taxable retail sales were 81 percent of those of the average Kansas county. The report can be accessed online through the Riley County website.

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