Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Departments Seek More Funds ; Parks and Rec, Public Works Officials Make Pitch for Budget Increases

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Departments Seek More Funds ; Parks and Rec, Public Works Officials Make Pitch for Budget Increases

Article excerpt

The directors of Shawnee County's Parks and Recreation and Public Works departments say they need more than an additional $1 million next year to adequately meet taxpayers' expectations.

Parks and recreation director John Knight and public works/solid waste director Tom Vlach on Wednesday presented their 2015 budgets to the Shawnee County Commission. The commission has requested departments provide a flat budget, with only the 27th pay period as an increase.

Knight offered a flat budget of $13.9 million, but said the department truly needs $17.5 million to bring its services back up to where residents expect it to be.

"I did not feel I'd be doing my job correctly if I didn't tell you what it costs to actually operate the department the way it should be," he said.

Vlach, however, decided not to provide a flat budget -- opting instead to illustrate his department's need for a $1.2 million increase.

"I don't feel that gives you the information you need to make the proper decision," he said of a flat budget. "It's arguable that the road and bridge infrastructure system are the most widely used facilities in the county. Nearly everybody uses roads and bridges nearly every single day. To me, that makes it a pretty darn high priority for the county."

Both Knight and Vlach appealed to the commissioners' inboxes, each claiming most of the phone calls and requests from constituents revolve around their departments. The commission supported those claims, with Commissioner Shelly Buhler indicating residents want to see the implementation of the parks and recreation master plan, and Commissioner Bob Archer saying he frequently receives calls about road maintenance.

"They tell me 'take care of our roads, make sure you remove snow when it snows and don't raise our property taxes,' " Archer said. "That's what I hear over and over again."

The two directors, as did other department heads who have presented 2015 budgets in the past two weeks, also emphasized the need to increase wages among department staff. Many county employees have seen inflation outpace raises in the past few years. …

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