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No deficit projected for Sedgwick County this year, but concerns going forward, CFO says

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, at 10:59 a.m.
  • Updated Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, at 7:07 a.m.

Sedgwick County is projecting it will not end this year with a deficit, but its chief financial officer says there still are reasons to be concerned about the county’s future fiscal health.

Chris Chronis, the chief financial officer, told commissioners Wednesday that the county ended last year with a $1.2 million budget surplus.

“It has taken a lot of sacrifice to bring this ship to a balanced budget,” Commission Chairman Jim Skelton said.

Revenue was up 1 percent, and expenditures were down 2.7 percent, Chronis said.

Four sources of income were down. The county took in about 18 percent less in jail fees in the last quarter of 2012 than it did in the last quarter of 2011. That means cities such as Wichita are sending fewer people to jail.

Investment income was down about 20 percent.

Chronis joked that financial experts would call the county’s return on its investments a “ridiculous” amount.

The county took in about 30 percent less in penalties and interest on back taxes and less than 1 percent less in motor vehicle taxes.

Up were mortgage registration fees — 36 percent compared with the same time period — and almost 21 percent in back taxes.

On the spending side, the cost of salaries and wages was down almost 9 percent, which reflects a reduced county staff. In February 2011, the county had 3,042 employees, Chronis said. At the end of 2011, it had 2,893 employees. At the end of 2012, it had just less than 2,800.

Chronis expressed concern about three key areas going forward: the effect the state’s budget will have on the county, legislation that will affect the county’s bottom line and the local economy.

The county probably will get less money from the state for programs the state requires, Chronis said, and he said he foresees the state pushing the cost of programs it previously paid for to local government.

“The local economy continues to be a concern,” Chronis said. “The local economy is recovering. The recovery is slow. That is not a surprise. You’ve heard it elsewhere.”

Chronis said the closing of Boeing Wichita will have an impact on the county, both in terms of taxes and in terms of unemployment. He said Hawker Beechcraft’s bankruptcy will as well.

“They will come out of bankruptcy as a different, smaller company,” Chronis said.

The county projects a deficit beginning in fiscal 2014, the report that Chronis shared with commissioners said.

Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or dgruver@wichitaeagle.com.

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