It’s official. The FY 2012 Budget for Johnson County is approximately $810.7 million with no anticipated increase in the mill levy next year.
Last week by unanimous vote, the Johnson County Board of Commissioners adopted the county’s fiscal year 2012 budget with an estimated mill levy set at 23.256 mills, the same as the existing mill levy, which traditionally is the lowest among the 105 counties in Kansas. The county has maintained a constant mill levy since 2007.  One mill equals $1 on every $1,000 of a homeowner’s assessed valuation.
The final setting of the 2012 mill levy, however, will be established by the end of October with the 2012 property valuations by the Johnson County Department of Records and Tax Administration.
By state law, the board must adopt the new budget each year by Aug. 25.
“We are holding our own with no dramatic reduction in core public services, no layoffs, and no tax increases,” Chairman Ed Eilert said. “We have taken the necessary steps to address economic and budgetary challenges by balancing the county’s pressing needs with future financial projections, resulting in a fiscal year 2012 budget that’s fiscally prudent.”
In crafting the new budget, the county, like many local governments in Johnson County, faced a balancing act of crafting a bottom line while dealing with the ongoing challenges of state and federal funding reductions, lower assessed property valuations, and less revenue from mortgage registration fees and sales taxes.
In the 2012 budget, county government has:
• reduced expenditures by $11.7 million in ongoing expenditures in 2012 with minimum impacts to public services and programs. Over the past three years, the county has implemented $34 million in budget reductions;
• eliminated 145.14 vacant full-time equivalent (FTE) positions with no employee layoffs. Since 2010, the county has trimmed 336 FTEs. All of the FTE eliminations, past and next year, involved vacant positions through attrition;
• proposed a modest 1.5 percent salary merit increase in 2012 for county employees. No salary merit increases were authorized in 2011;
• eliminated a 1.5 percent salary merit increase in 2012 for the six District Commissioners.In 2011, the commissioners reduced their salaries by 5 percent to $47,349 and received no salary merit increases; and,
• reduced the salary of the Chairman by $8,855 to $75,000. That’s the beginning salary level established in 2002 for a publicly elected chairman under the county’s voter-approved Home Rule Charter.
The 2012 budget sets the maximum number of FTE county employees at 3,901.77.
The maximum expenditure authority in the total 2012 budget is set at $810.736 million, including budgeted expenditures of $682 million and budgeted reserves of $128.7 million, or approximately 16 percent.
The 2012 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) totals $117.4 million. Excluding stormwater ($10.8 million) and wastewater projects ($65.2 million), which have dedicated funding sources, the CIP features approximately $41.4 million for various capital projects
Balancing the financial ledger for next year required budget cuts to most county departments and agencies by elimination of FTE vacancies along with reduction or elimination of some services, classes, and programs. The reductions in public safety included $2 million at the Sheriff’s Office by not filling a net 22.5 vacancies and more than $1.2 million at the Corrections Department by eliminating 21.5 vacancies.
The impact of cuts to other departments/agencies included:
• The Park and Recreation District was reduced by almost $1.4 million, resulting in a decrease in park policing, mowing, and facility cleaning. Capital improvements to some parks also have been suspended.
• The Public Works Department had a reduction of almost $680,000, impacting complex survey work, equipment maintenance, and slower response times in inclement weather operations.
• A $486,866 reduction to the Mental Health Center will impact the center’s outpatient treatment services with approximately 1,000 fewer clients served by this program.  The result will be an increased number of persons using hospital emergency services or becoming involved in the criminal justice system.  Also, an estimated additional 20 persons, who would otherwise be treated as outpatients, will be admitted to hospitals instead, resulting in expected higher costs.
• The Human Services Department was cut by $445,580 resulting in a reduction of sign language services, ending management of the Roeland Park Community Center, and prolonging replacement of computer equipment and vehicles.
• Johnson County Library was reduced by $387,269 with impacts in service levels and programming, meaning increased wait times for patrons and reduced patron information support, and less funding for technology infrastructure, such as computer servers, resulting in compromised system reliability.
• The Transportation Department’s budget was trimmed by $262,700, resulting in elimination and reduction of some routes.
The 2012 levy of 23.256 mills for Johnson County Government involves the county’s three taxing districts: County, Library, and Park and Recreation District. The estimated mill levy for the county taxing district next year is 17.748 mills, 3.158 mills for the Library taxing district, and 2.350 mills for the Park and Recreation taxing district.
Ad valorem taxes are expected to generate approximately $167.0 million, or approximately 25.5 percent of the county’s revenue. One mill of tax is estimated to generate $7.35 million for the County in 2012.
Johnson County’s fiscal year begins on Jan. 1.
What’s the Bottom Line?
Johnson County Government’s new budget reflects a general lowering of appraised property values in Johnson County because of the lingering economic downturn. The average home in Johnson County was valued at $242,000 in 2012; the average residential property appraised value in the 2011 budget was set at $244,000.
The new budget projects that the owner of the average home in Johnson County, valued at $242,000, would pay approximately $53.92 per month in 2012 for the county’s portion of their property tax bill. In 2011, the average home of $244,000 paid approximately $54.25 a month in property taxes.
The 2012 Equivalent Dwelling Unit (EDU) charge by Johnson County Wastewater is $138 per year, an increase of 3 percent from the current charge of $134. The Wastewater Connection Fee for next year is $3,258, unchanged from the current fee.
The 2012 calculations are only for Johnson County Government and do not include other taxing entities, such as the state of Kansas, cities, or school districts.
More information about the 2012 budget is available at www.jocogov.org or by contacting Budget Director       Scott Neufeld at [email protected] or (913) 715-0553.