SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – Sedgwick County commissioners are expected to approve a $450 million budget for Sedgwick County and the county Fire District 1.

The proposed spending plan focuses on areas including county employees, mental health and public safety.

Property tax rates are estimated to be 29.359 mills for Sedgwick County and 18.131 mills for Fire District 1.

“Mill levies are not going up but if the valuation on my property went up, be it commercial or residential, I’m going to pay a little bit more in property taxes,” explained county manager Tom Stolz.

Sedgwick County employees

During the budget process, county commissioners and department heads identified “employee accommodations” as an area that needs improvement.

“Issues of compensation, morale, training, mentorship — all of the things an organization of about 3,000 employees has to try to manage,” said Stolz.

According to the recommended budget, county employees will receive a 2.25-percent pay raise, plus an additional 1.25-percent raise for positions that are hard to fill or underpaid.

Stolz added the increase is an effort to retain and attract employees.

Mental health

County staff also identified mental health as a growing concern in the county.

“We’re seeing more of a need in society,” said Stolz. “We’re seeing it manifest itself out in public.”

The recommended budget addresses the issue by adding six employees at the COMCARE Community Crisis Center, which costs $361,000.

In addition, the budget adds $20,000 for security services at COMCARE Children’s Services.

Public safety

County commissioners and the Sedgwick County Sheriff all agreed that public safety remains a top priority.

The proposed budget gives the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office a boost in funding and additional positions, totaling around $850,000.

Sheriff Jeff Easter explained the increase will help address the mental health and substance abuse problems inmates face, plus an overcrowded jail.

Easter said: “From a public safety standpoint, you can arrest all the problems,” but the “backside” of public safety continues to suffer.

“We have to house them [inmates]. We have to prosecute them. A lab has to put together all the evidence that’s needed to prosecute the case. If they get probation, you have community corrections that have to monitor them afterwards,” he explained.

In the recommended budget, the Sheriff’s office is asking for:

  • Funding for inmate medical services contract increases
  • Funding for inmate meal contract increases
  • Funding for personnel training and development
  • One full-time Forensic Investigator position
  • Funding for replacement of portable radios for Detention

Additional budget information

The 2020 recommended budget also calls for increases in other public safety areas, public works, senior services and elections.

The 800-page budget book can be found here.