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Sedgwick County Considers 'Lean' 2021 Budget As Pandemic Response Continues

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Sedgwick County’s budget proposal for 2021 addresses staffing needs in several departments while keeping funding flat in most other areas.

County Manager Tom Stolz released the recommended budget Wednesday at the county commission meeting. Budgets for Sedgwick County government and Fire District 1 total about $458 million, about the same as last year.

Stolz said the spending plan takes into account that the county is still in COVID-19 pandemic response mode.

“As we look at what’s going on in our community with our economy, we know that we have to be exceptionally lean," he said. 

There is no tax increase, and no change to county services.

Stolz says some adjustments to staffing and funding were due to the rising cost of doing business, changes in processes outside of the control of the county or in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The budget plan adds new fulltime positions in departments considered critical to county operations such as the sheriff’s office where four people would be hired as judicial services deputies.

Other proposed additions include a clinical social worker and a paramedic for the Integrated Care Team-1 (ICT-1), a collaborative program to handle mental health-related emergency 911 calls; five docket assistants for the District Attorney’s office; an epidemiologist for the Health Department; and a diversity/inclusion officer.

The budget calls for about $2.6 million for the sheriff’s office to keep up with jail-related expenses such as out-of-county inmate housing and medical supplies.

“The government services are needed more than ever in the community," Stolz said, "and I’m talking about everything from public health and the sheriff and 911 to mental health and the secondary services that we provide."

The budget also includes cost-saving measures: no pay raises for county employees, fewer technology improvements and the delay of new capital improvement projects such as the county administration building or the expansion of the Community Crisis Center.

The plan also calls for continuing a hiring freeze for nonessential employee positions, restricting nonessential spending and no travel or external training for employees that are not required for mandatory certifications.

Public hearings are set for 9 a.m. July 22 and 6 p.m. August 10. An online forum is open for public comment submissions through August 11.

County commissioners are scheduled to vote on the budget August 12.

Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.