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Douglas County Commissioner

CHARLES JONES

--- Issues and Information---

    What's A Commissioner To Do?

 

 

Here's a "what's a commissioner to do" riddle.  The question is whether the city and county ought to help relieve some of the anticipated damage from shrinking State support for public schools.

 

It's not like the county has money to burn...we are currently anticipating a $1.5 million -- about two mills in property taxes -- shortfall in State funds.  No doubt, the cities of Douglas County are in similar circumstances re: reduced State support.

 

School District #497  is facing $3.2 Million in budget cuts and fee increases.

 

The "Either" and "Or" passages below came in e-mails from good friends and political supporters whom I truly respect.  The positions are well-stated, thoughtful, and diametrically opposed.  The city/county/school board will summit immediately after legislative plans are clear.  

 

Either:

"In looking at some of the items on the County Commission agenda, I notice the School District is sharing some of their funding woes and suggesting that perhaps the County can help because, after all, these are worthwhile programs.  To me, it does not make a lot of sense for one governmental (taxing) agency to take over the expenses of another governmental agency.


This is particularly true at a time when the request is motivated by the fact that tax revenues are down for everyone.  Either increase the tax revenue to the organization or cut the budget to match revenues, or a combination thereof.  Do not shift the funding to another governmental agency.  Douglas County, for example, is facing a big enough challenge to fund its own traditional operating expenses and should not be called upon to add to its burden, particularly at this time."

Or:

"TANSTAAFL is a rule of the world, folk:  "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch."  You, the citizen, will pay somewhere, somehow, someone, some way.  We prefer to invest in our children than pay for the costs of putting them in jail or supporting them on welfare.  The county should fund the school nurses and counselors in our county schools.  They cities should fund the athletics and other activities through the parks and recreation budgets. The school budget must be preserved to teach our children about reading and writing.  And the community cannot afford to NOT pay for the other programs that help shape our children into full and contributing members of our communities, and keep them safe and healthy for all of us to enjoy."


Check out some of the Either/Or Responses received so far.  Then let me know:   it's your money, what would you do?

 

    New Douglas County Commission Districts

On Wednesday, January 16th, the County Commission  voted unanimously to redistrict the three County Commission Districts.

The old district configuration has considerable population disparity as a result of growth since it was set out in 1991.  The constitutional provision of one-per-one-vote requires that commission districts approach equality in population.  The current map also shows a 2nd District with three non-contiguous islands:  which doesn't make a lot of sense from the "communities of interest" standpoint.

RDMap1.jpg (659588 bytes)

 

The new district map eliminates islands and non-contiguities.  Population distribution would be:  District 1 = 35,165; District 2 = 32,950; and District 3 = 31,847.  The commissioners agree that some disparity in population is reasonable given likely growth patterns between now and the 2011 Census/Redistricting.

 

Unlike the the brutally partisan redistricting hijinks in Topeka, our deliberations were harmonious, principle-focused, and relatively free of partisan politics.  Thanks to my fellow Commissioners and members of the public who helped inform the process.

 

2002 Douglas County Budget

After everything has been said and done, the true values of a political body are reflected it is budget.  Does the Douglas County Commission's values comport with yours, or with your perception of community interests?  Take a look and let us know.  02Budg.jpg (76030 bytes)

 

 

The 2002 county budget-making process was a pretty rough adventure due to increased insurance costs, intense regional competition for law enforcement officers, and funding cuts related to the State's deteriorating fiscal solvency.  

With a $415 million deficit in State funding and a possible decline in local sales tax revenues, developing the county's 2003 budget could be even more difficult than 2002.   

After having imposed a 3.562 mill levy increase to fund the 2002 budget, I doubt very seriously that the commission will have any appetite for another mill rate increase in 2003.  The sad question will be:  where can we make the deepest costs with the least adverse impacts.


The Cost of Growth

downtown-aerial.jpg (25806 bytes)

 

 

Growth costs and their distribution continue to generate heated public debate.   Read it all -- carefully and skeptically -- and decide for yourself.

 

 

 

Real Estate Assessed Values By Property Class

Apprais.gif (143193 bytes)In the past 6 years, the assessed value of residential property in Douglas County has increased 63%, while the assessed value of commercial/industrial property has risen 59%.  When the assessed value of commercial/industrial property (taxed at 25%)  lags behind residential assessment (taxed at 11.5%), it indicates a number of troubling trends:

  • Homeowners have to carry a greater share of the overall tax burden.   

  • More people have to commute to their jobs, causing an erosion of social capital as discussed at the Bowling Alone summit.   

  • The sense of promise about a community -- that people can make a life and career in Douglas County -- is diminished.

Take a look at the assessment data from April, 2001.  Are there other notable trends?