GREG LOWER

ERIE – Neosho County Commissioners approved a new budget for publication Wednesday evening that sets up a contingency fund for next year.

The budget keeps the previously published mill levy of 53.242 mills and an overall increase in spending authority of $1.14 million, but shifts funds from budget line items to create a $786,908 contingency amount. The mill levy is down slightly from the previous year.

“We’re going to make this one stick,” Commission Chair Gail Klaassen said.

“To say the least, this crazy year we’ve had, that’s pretty good,” Commissioner Paul Westhoff said.

The commission set a public hearing for 2 pm Oct. 15.

Accountant Rodney Burns came to Wednesday’s special meeting with the fourth draft of the 2021 budget and commissioners approved the fifth draft after a three-hour meeting.

Much of the contingency fund came from a decreased budget in the road and bridge department.

During the discussion, Commissioner David Orr presented department budgets going back to 2016 for comparisons of before and after he and Klaassen took office.

“Even I have been bamboozled by lack of knowledge,” he said.

Burns commented that during 2016 to 2018, the county was dealing with a tax appeal from Ash Grove, so budgets may have been held low and what was budgeted may not be what was actually spent.

Commissioners then went over budget line items to adjust each department. Klaassen also brought salary comparisons for department heads.

Orr’s figures showed the county attorney budget at $221,753 in 2016 through 2018, then up to $303,100 in 2019 and a request of $392,565 for 2021. Orr sought a $20,000 cut from the 2021 request, and part of the increase was attributed to Odyssey software, a court case management system estimated to cost $75,000.

Commissioners said they would take care of the Odyssey, and lowered the 2021 county attorney budget to $318,255, an increase of 5 percent over 2019.

Although most of the meeting was calm, officials still clashed on occasion. One was discussion of a salary increase for 911 Director Lori Nally. She said she was being penalized for what the city of Chanute chose to do by establishing its own 911 Center.

“I did not run them off,” she said.

“Don’t even go there,” Orr said.

The commission set a $6,000 increase for Nally. Increases for the county clerk and treasurer will work within budget limits.

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