A Riley County commissioner was able to meet with Governor Laura Kelly’s staff on issues facing Kansas counties.
Chairman Ron Wells met with staff on Wednesday to discuss the impact of the county not receiving revenue sharing money from the state. Wells says they were not having an impact with the local legislators, which is why he brought up meeting with the governor.
“This item seemed to be kind of falling behind and talking with one of our local representatives that there is movement this upcoming year to do away with those statutes returning money to city and counties,” says Wells, “This brought up a sense of urgency.”
Wells thought he was going to meet with Kelly herself, but was told the best option would be to meet with her representatives who specialize in these kinds issues. They would then report what they did during the meeting to Kelly. He says the staff was very aware of what was going on and mentioned there may be funding available in a few years. There are some items such as education and highways the state is still working on. He requested that there be no movement from the legislator to remove these statutes.
Overall, Wells was pleased with the meeting and commended the staff for their efforts. He was also pleased to be in contact with the correct people for this issue.
“While they didn’t offer necessarily a solution, but they handed me a piece of paper that looks like there is some funding available in 2022 or 2023,” says Wells.
Wells was also able to briefly meet with Lt. Governor Lynn Rogers as well, who was also aware of the situation. He explained to Rogers how much more state work is being put on Riley County and the less funding they are receiving.
Senator Tom Hawk was the one who was able to get Wells to meet with the governor’s staff. Hawk joined Wells in Topeka and introduced him to the right people.
“He is just as eager to learn what the impact is to the county,” says Wells, “He didn’t elaborate one way or the other, but I feel he is pretty much in tune with the county.”
Wells says the impact this has on Riley County is $3-4 million a year. When he told the staff what the cost of a mill was in the county, they were surprised and understood the impact this is having. If the county had received the money they were supposed to get from the state, it could have lowered the 2020 mill levy by almost three mills.
Now that this meeting has happened, what’s the next step? Wells says at first he almost felt defeated and was thinking of giving up, but he said that wouldn’t be fair to the county and its people. He says while he has gained the momentum, he thinks other counties will join in as well. Wells and the other commissioners will also be meeting with other county commissioners from across the state to discuss these issues next week.
“I think this meeting will be a telling factor,” says Wells, “If they pick up the ball, which I think they will, and pick up with their legislators, then I will breathe a sigh of relief but I won’t stop talking about it.”
Overall, Wells says he has an optimistic feeling about this moving forward, but will still keep this in the forefront for the public.
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