Monthly Archives: March 2009

Sedgwick County sets dates for budget hearings

Sedgwick County has set dates for budget hearings and public comment.

County manager William Buchanan will give his annual budget presentation to commissioners on May 13. Hearings with department heads will begin May 20 and continue through June.

The last day for changes to the recommended budget will be July 1. The recommended budget will be presented to commissioners July 15, and the first public hearing will be July 22. The second public hearing will be Aug. 5.

Public hearings start at 9 a.m. in the commission’s chambers on the third floor of the courthouse, 525 N. Main.

Karl Peterjohn: Call “public investment” what it is

“Public investment” is a sugar-coated way to talk about government spending, Sedgwick County commissioner Karl Peterjohn said at Tuesday’s staff meeting with department heads and other elected officials.

Peterjohn was talking about the city’s efforts to revitalize downtown and said it bothers him when officials refer to money spent on such projects as a  “public investment.” What it is, he said, is government spending with tax dollars.

Peterjohn, former executive director of the Kansas Taxpayers Network, also asked for more information about tax-increment financing districts and how well they are or aren’t working. The city increasingly is using TIF districts to encourage development in the city’s core area.

TIF districts channel new property tax payments into a fund that pays off bonds on improvements such as streetscaping or a parking garage.

TIF districts affect the county because property tax money doesn’t funnel back. They have been controversial because of concerns about giving private developers a financial advantage.

The county last year balked at the city’s initial plans for a TIF district near Intrust Bank Arena. Commissioners said the city’s original plan for an expanded “Center City” district was too big, undefined and would have an adverse impact on the county by diverting property tax money. The city cut the project in half, outlined specific projects and put a cap on the district.

Second round of smoking ban debate likely Tuesday in the Senate

TOPEKA – There is a joke around the statehouse that nothing ever dies under the dome.

That seems to be true for efforts to pass a statewide smoking ban which could be debated for a second time in the Senate on Tuesday.

A few weeks ago the issue seemed finished after Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, who chairs the House Health and Human Services Committee, decided not to vote on the original bill after several days of hearings.

Following the typical progression of a bill, the matter was dead.

But there are ways around almost any obstacle – such as inserting the smoking ban into House Bill 2221. Originally, the measure dealt with child care.

Now the measure would bar smoking in most public places.

By putting the language in to a measure that has already passed the House, Senators are able to bypass the committees.

If it does go to the House floor, the measure is likely to be sent to a negotiating committee were six lawmakers – three from each chamber – will work out a compromise.

Bill blocking casino annexation sent to negotiating committee

TOPEKA – A bill retroactively blocking a string annexation used by Mulvane to bring a potential casino site into the city limits is on its way to a negotiating committee.

The House on Monday voted 108-15 to send House substitute for Senate Bill 254 back to the Senate. The bill was amended with language from a previous House bill that retroactively blocked the annexation.

Because the bill had been changed from its original form, the Senate sent it to conference committee where six lawmakers – three from each chamber – will negotiate a compromise.

House approves home delivery for wine

TOPEKA – Kansans will be able to have up to 12 cases of wine delivered to their home annually under a bill approved by the state House on Monday.

Senate Bill 212 allows out of state wineries to ship directly to their customers. Currently, wine shipments must be sent to a liquor store.

The measure passed 111-12 and now goes to to the Senate for agreement.

Special events drinking bill passes the House

TOPEKA – The House voted 110-13 for a bill that allows alcohol to be served at special events like Final Friday.

House Bill 2180 allows cities to issue temporary special permits for events that can then serve drinks such as wine, strong beer or mixed drinks. Currently, events such as the River Festival can have outdoor beer gardens serving 3.2 beer in a confined area.

Wichita has pushed the bill as a way to enhance the quality of life in the city and to attract more young people to build lives in the city.

Support Kelsey for Congress and maybe win a vacation

TOPEKA – Congressional hopeful, state Sen. Dick Kelsey is trying a new tactic for to raise funds for his race in the 4th District.

The Goddard Republican is entering everyone who joins his “Kelsey for Congress 2010 Club” by March 31 into a drawing for a family vacation to Beaver Lake in Arkansas.

A $20.10 donation gets you in the club. Membership perks include exclusive invitations to 2010 events and email updates on the campaign.

Kelsey is the first candidate to toss his hat in the ring for the seat that Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt is vacating to run for U.S. Senate. U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, a Republican, is stepping down and plans to run for governor in 2010.

Need help filing your taxes? Try one of these sites

More than 610,000 Kansans had e-filed, 393,000 had used a tax preparer and 217,000 had filed from their home computer as of last week.

If you need help filing your taxes, here’s a list of free tax preparation sites in Sedgwick County:

Center of Hope, 400 N. Emporia, Wichita

CCCS of Kansas, 300 W Douglas Suite 900, Wichita

Best Coalition Mobile Site, 245 N Water, United Way of The Plains, Wichita

Linwood Senior Center, 1901 S Kansas St, Wichita

Wichita Family Services Inst., 1631 E 17th St, Wichita

Venture House, 1005 E. 2nd St N, Wichita

Northeast Senior Center, 2121 E 21st St N, Wichita

Atwater Neighborhood City Hall, 2755 E 19th St, Wichita

Inter-Faith Ministries, 829 N. Market, Wichita

Downtown Senior Center, 200 S Walnut St ,Wichita

Stanley Neighborhood City Hall , 1749 S Martinson St, Wichita

La Familia, 841 W 21st St N, Wichita

Dear Neighbor Ministries, 1329 S. Bluffview, Wichita

Osage, 2121 W 31st St S, Wichita

St. Anne Parish , 2801 S. Seneca, Wichita

Oaklawn Senior Center, 2937 Oaklawn Dr, Wichita

Colvin City Hall, 2820 S Roosevelt St, Wichita

Park City Senior Center, 6100 N Hydraulic St, Park City

Evergreen City Hall, 2700 N Woodland St, Wichita

Orchard Park Senior Center , 4808 W 9th St N, Wichita

Sedgwick County Ext. Service, 7001 W 21st St North, Wichita

Haysville Senior Center , 711 E Grand Ave, Haysville

Derby Sr Center , 611 Mulberry Rd, Derby

Unemployed? IRS wants to help

The IRS’ spokesman for Kansas, Michael Devine,  sent this out today:

WASHINGTON — All or part of unemployment benefits received in 2009 will be tax free for many unemployed workers, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

“This morning we learned that a record 5.6 million people were receiving unemployment benefits in the middle of March. This underscores the need for the relief provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which includes making the first $2,400 of unemployment insurance exempt from tax,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “I urge all unemployed workers to take this special tax break into account as they plan their tax withholding and quarterly estimated tax payments for the year. This change offers a helping hand to millions of Americans who are out of work and struggling to make ends meet.”

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, enacted last month, every person who receives unemployment benefits during 2009 is eligible to exclude the first $2,400 of these benefits when they file their tax return next year. For a married couple, the exclusion applies to each spouse, separately. If both spouses receive unemployment benefits during 2009, each may exclude from income the first $2,400 of benefits they receive.

The new law doesn’t affect the return taxpayers are filling out now. Unemployment benefits received in 2008 and prior years remain fully taxable.

Unemployed workers can choose to have income tax withheld from their unemployment benefit payments. Withholding on these payments is voluntary. However, choosing this option may help avoid a surprise year-end tax bill or a possible penalty for having paid too little tax during the year. Those who choose this option will have a flat 10 percent tax withheld from their benefits.

Unemployed workers who expect to receive more than $2,400 in benefits this year should consider having tax withheld from their benefit payments in excess of that amount. Those unemployed workers who have already chosen to have tax taken out of their benefits, should consider the $2,400 exclusion in determining whether to continue to have tax withheld.

Use Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request, or the equivalent form provided by the payer to request withholding to begin or end. Form W-4V is also available on IRS.gov or by calling the IRS toll-free at 1-800-TAX-FORM (829-3676).

Sedgwick County’s finance staff wins awards

Not everyone has a master’s degree in accounting, Sedgwick County’s chief financial officer pointed out this week when lauding his staff for developing an easy-to-understand finance report for public consumption that has landed an award.

Sedgwick County is the only government in Kansas to win the Government Finance Officers Association’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Annual Financial Reporting. About 160 governments nationwide and in Kansas won the award in 2006.

The county’s 2007 report was the first time the county prepared a public-focused financial scorecard. Chief financial officer Chris Chronis praised county employees Sara Jantz, Brandi Bailey and Pam Kelly for their work.

The county’s regular, more detail-oriented financial report also won an award from the group, the 27th consecutive time. Chronis commended county employees Troy Bruun and Anne Smarsh for their report.