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Sedgwick County tax collections drop

WICHITA — Sedgwick County revenues dropped more than expected in April, prompting officials to begin taking cost-saving steps.

County Manager William Buchanan said Monday he hasn't frozen any positions yet, but is making departments justify new hires.

The county also is looking at not doing some capital improvement programs it had planned, and re-bidding long-term contracts that were bid a couple of years ago to try to get better prices.

Buchanan called these measures "preliminary baby steps of financial caution."

Losses came in 13 major sources that account for 97 percent of the county's revenue. They were heaviest in real estate taxes. Although assessed valuations were down slightly, the drop was due to people not paying their taxes, Buchanan said.

"There's no harm that comes to folks not paying their taxes except you owe interest at some future date. And you're not going to get foreclosed on your property until about 3½ years after the first time you miss," he said. "This is a business strategy some people in this community use."

The delinquency rate normally is 2½ to 3 percent, and is about 5 percent now, he said.