Dave Unruh: Sedgwick County wants you to know how your tax dollars are being spent

03/01/2014 9:16 AM

03/02/2014 7:59 AM

Despite the financial challenges our community has faced in the last few years, Sedgwick County has remained dedicated to delivering quality public service to our citizens. As we began budgeting for 2014, the Board of Sedgwick County Commissioners established a framework for moving forward:

• Balanced budget
• Focused government
• Be clear and concise about what we do.

We are incorporating these goals in our daily practices, responding to economic challenges and reduced funding from the state by reducing programs and expenses. We reached our previous goal of zero deficit by 2013. We cut a total of $20.4 million from tax-supported funds from the 2011 through 2013 budgets. We reduced or didn’t fund 223 positions in that time. We spent less in property tax-supported funds in 2013 than in 2009.

Meanwhile, we strategically budget, still striving to ensure the health and well-being of our citizens through our services, to attract and retain businesses locally and to provide excellent recreation options for families. We do all this on about $1.11 in property taxes per day from a typical homeowner.

But do you know what those property taxes actually fund? Of course we fund very recognizable services such as 911, EMS, Sheriff’s Office and Public Works road crews, but there are many other programs that are working for Sedgwick County residents every day.

Did you know we provide services to more than 14,190 people with mental illnesses, including 2,485 children each year? Did you know the Household Hazardous Waste facility has a Swap-and-Shop that allows residents to drop off and take home certain materials such as paint, fertilizers, aerosols and household chemicals? Did you know the Sedgwick County Call Center takes, on average, 6,196 calls per week, helping people find answers regarding taxes, property and elections? These are just a few of the more than 900 programs and services we provide.

It is also worthwhile to invest in our community by attracting and retaining business. Through collaboration with public and private entities in partnerships such as the National Center for Aviation Training and the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, we’re working to establish a strong field of skilled workers and to provide those workers with numerous options for quality jobs in local industries.

Not only is it vital to strive for a better local job market, but to ensure families have excellent options for recreation, making them want to stay and live out their lives here. In the fall of 2013, the Board of County Commissioners approved the renewal of five-year funding agreements with both the Sedgwick County Zoo and Exploration Place, two of the most popular attractions in the area. We are excited by the prospect of a new elephant exhibit at the zoo in the next few years, and by the fun and educational traveling exhibits Exploration Place hosts for about 200,000 visitors a year. And of course we can’t forget about Intrust Bank Arena, which never fails to bring top performances and sporting events to Wichita.

We want to encourage the residents of Sedgwick County to look into how we are spending their tax dollars. Visit our website, www.sedgwickcounty.org, and learn about the services you pay for, write your district’s commissioner, become engaged in local government.

The best way we can serve you is to know your input, know your concerns. It is your money after all.

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