Daily Archives: March 31, 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.