Sedgwick County has released its proposed budget for 2016, and it includes drastic cuts to many county services.
Numerous county agencies and county-supported organizations were aware that funding cuts were coming, but didn’t know how severe they’d be.
County Commissioner Dave Unruh doesn’t support the new budget, saying reductions to the Sedgwick County Health Department will hurt those in need.
“A lot of them have no place else to go,” Unruh said.
Many local organizations will lose all county support, including the Wichita Arts Council, RiverFest and the Greater Wichita Sports Commission.
Project Access, which provides health care to the uninsured, will also lose all of its county support—which accounts for 25 percent of its budget.
Anne Nelson, the executive director of the Central Plains Regional Health Care Foundation who also oversees Project Access, says she was expecting a reduction in funding from the county, but was shocked to learn they were pulling all $200,000.
“If we have a funding cut, we’re going to have to cut a portion of the staff and the medication support,” Nelson says. “That means we’ll provide less services to a reduced number of patients.”
These cuts are due in part to a change in the way the county wants to pay for road repairs.
Historically, the county paid for millions of dollars in annual road repair through bonds. Under the proposed 2016 budget, that money would instead come from the general fund and highway funds. The change is being touted as a way to reduce county debt.
Commissioner Unruh doesn’t think it’s necessary to make these changes, saying that if the commission can agree to continue using bonds for road repairs, most of the spending cuts could be prevented.
Jason Cox, chairman of the Exploration Place Board of Trustees, says he’s holding out hope the county commission will listen to Unruh.
“Hopefully the $75,000 [cut] is something we won’t need to address,” Cox said.
Public hearings will be held before the budget is voted on Aug. 12.