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Government

Breaking Down Sedgwick County's Numbers Ahead Of Budget Vote

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Sean Sandefur
/
KMUW/File Photo
Sedgwick County commissioners hold a hearing over the proposed 2016 budget last month.

The Sedgwick County Commission votes tomorrow on the 2016 proposed budget. KMUW's Aileen LeBlanc talked to some experts about the numbers.

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Credit Deborah Shaar

Jim Howell, Sedgwick County Commissioner - 5th District 

"Roads and bridges are something that we have to constantly maintain. Every single year we take a small nibble at that apple, in fact, $4 million a year. Every time you borrow $4 million it costs us $5.7 million, so we’ve got 20 years' worth of decisions behind us already that we have got to pay off, 20 years' worth of bonds have racked up, and we have to pay our minimum payment on that every single year.

"It’s like using your credit card for something that you do all the time. I liken this to something like paying for food, for example. You would not want to use your credit card, I would think, to pay for food." 

 
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Credit Courtesy

Ken Kriz, Regents Distinguished Professor of Public Finance, Wichita State University 

"This particular proposal is unicorn repellent. It’s a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist. I heard one of the commissioners interviewed on TV, he said, 'Well, you can get into trouble with debt.' And that’s true if you have an excessive amount of debt.  But the county is nowhere near that type of debt level.

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Credit Source: U.S. Census Bureau

"If you look across the nation, using Census Bureau figures, the average county debt is about $1,000 per person. [Sedgwick County's] figures are about $350 per capita.  That's only about 35 percent of the national average in terms of debt, so we’re way below the average."

"If you look at a place like Des Moines, they’ve made an intentional decision to go after arts and cultural-related events, and use them as a way to draw people in to the area. Then businesses want to come to an area. So that seems like a relatively straightforward and logical form of economic development."

 
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Credit Wichita State University

Ken Ciboski, Associate Professor of Political Science, Wichita State University 

"The arts do generate a pretty significant amount of economic activity. I mean, people come, they go to a theater, they go to a symphony; I go to a symphony, maybe afterwards I might want to go to a restaurant or something.

"And this generates a lot of economic activity. I think there’s value there that we have to keep in mind, and it also reflects on the kind of city we are."

 

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Credit Deborah Shaar

Dave Unruh, Sedgwick County Commissioner - 1st District

"My strategy is that I’m going to try to propose an alternative that’s still consistent with their fundamental no-bonding, because I don’t think I can win that fight. But perhaps I can offer a compromise that will restore most of those cuts to those agencies that are part of the fabric of our culture."