Declining revenue continues to plague Sedgwick County.
The county is taking in less money in real estate and personal property taxes because property values are down.
“I don’t know that I’d call it a problem. It’s just reality,” deputy chief financial officer Troy Bruun said Wednesday afternoon.
Revenue from property taxes was down $490,000 in the first quarter compared with the same time period last year, Bruun told commissioners Wednesday at their weekly meeting.
The county will end this year without a deficit after making about $7.2 million in cuts to tax-supported funds and eliminating 69 full-time positions. It also shuttered some programs, such as the health department’s prenatal program, and reduced support to the zoo, the extension center, Exploration Place and Wichita Area Technical College. At the end of last year, the county had 2,595 employees, down from 2,911 at the end of 2009.
But the county still has more cuts to make. It is projected to be back in the red next year.
Less money from federal and state grants also is a concern for the county.
“A lot of people served by programs may not understand where the funding is coming from,” Bruun said.
Programs that historically have been paid with federal and state dollars might require more county dollars if continued, and “it just makes our budget process a little more difficult.”
Grant funding was down almost 11 percent — more than $1.8 million — in the first quarter compared with the same time last year. Grant funding for the first quarter of this year was at $15.6 million, compared with $17.5 million last year and $20.5 million in the first quarter of 2011. That’s a two-year drop of almost 24 percent.
Bruun told commissioners that federal and state programs are looking to local government to fill in the gap.
There were some bright spots in the first quarter, though, Bruun said.
The county is taking in more money in back taxes, a good sign, he said. The county brought in $50,000 more the first quarter of the year compared with the same time period last year. Likewise, it also took in more in penalty fees and interest on back taxes, about $200,000, or nearly 21 percent, more.
Revenue from gaming at the Kansas Star Casino also was up, about 30 percent, or $110,000, from quarter to quarter.
And some expenses were lower, including contractual services such as utilities. Debt service also was down about $270,000.
County Manager William Buchanan has scheduled budget hearings for May 15 to 22. That’s when department heads will come to commissioners to make their case for money for next year.
Commissioners are scheduled to vote Aug. 7 on the 2014 budget.