As Sedgwick County seeks to shrink its $9.3 million budget deficit and do “less with less,” to quote County Manager William Buchanan, county employees’ cellphone bills are an easy and necessary target.
So it was good to learn that an employees group has been looking at the county’s cellphone spending and policies since early this year, and that Buchanan said there “absolutely” will be changes.
Deb Gruver’s article in the Sunday Eagle demonstrated why action on cellphone use is called for. The county spent $440,152 on 704 employees’ cellphone allowances last year, compared with the city of Wichita’s $121,090 on 277 employees’ cell allowances. The county has 2,840 employees, compared with the city’s total of about 3,000.
And while the county employees averaged $52.10 a month on cellphone allowances, city workers averaged about $36 a month.
City and county jobs can be dissimilar, but Sedgwick County’s cellphone bill also seems big compared with Johnson County’s. That urban county has 1,000 more employees (total 3,800) but only 594 with cellphone allowances as of June 26, and its estimated cellphone expense for 2012 is about $275,000.
Treasurer Linda Kizzire topped Sedgwick County’s list with a $2,043 cellphone allowance last year, partly owing to the county’s help with an upgrade to a smartphone. The most spent on cellphone use by a nonelected county official was $1,554, by emergency management director Randy Duncan.
Gruver’s article didn’t suggest any misuse of county phones for personal business, likely because of safeguards such as paperwork and supervisory review.
But such spending is irksome, especially with the county proposing such a drastic step as closing the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch to save $1.5 million to $1.9 million next year.
Especially for any employee whose job doesn’t tether him to a desk phone, a cellphone is an indispensable mobile communication device these days, promoting productivity and efficiency.
But many of the county residents still fortunate enough to be working amid this downturn have seen their own on-the-job perks cut back or axed. It’s reasonable to expect the local governments funded by their taxes to be frugal at any time, and nothing short of tightfisted in these rough times.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman