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Shawnee County, Kansas

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Shawnee County is one of 105 counties in Kansas. Its population is 177,934, and the county seat is Topeka.[1][2]

Website evaluation

See also: Evaluation of Kansas county websites
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Transparency grading process


The good

  • Budgets, tax schedules and audits are posted.[3]
  • Property taxes are payable online and interactive maps and property searches are available.[4][5]
  • Commissioners are posted with a communal email address.[6]
  • Meeting agendas and minutes are posted.[7]
  • Bid opportunities are posted.[8]
  • Building permits are posted, along with zoning information.[9][10]
  • Phone numbers are provided in the county directory and email addresses are listed on each department's webpage.[11]
  • Information and a form for public records requests are posted.[12]

The bad

  • The budget contains no summary and is not searchable.
  • Individual contact information for commissioners is not provided.
  • Information on lobbying is not posted.
  • County contracts are not posted.

Public employees

Board of commissioners

Commissioners serve four-year terms.[13]

Treasurer

In 2011, in response to concerns from the county auditor, Treasurer Larry Wilson instituted new policies in the motor vehicle department, allowing only managers to access the cash drawer. Auditor Stacey Woolington called for changes after the motor vehicle department's cash drawers were off by $10 or more 80 times this year. She was not convinced Wilson's new rule will be enough to solve the problem.[14]

The board of commissioners had asked the Kansas attorney general to investigate Wilson after they were dissatisfied with the district attorney's response to their request that he look into whether the treasurer had performed his duties.[15]

Budget

2010-2012 general fund budget totals[16]
Year Resources available Total expenditures
2010 $99,211,271 $92,324,873
2011 $97,618,853 $92,314,259
2012 $36,691,143 $98,601,265

Retirement costs

Pension

See also: Kansas public pensions

Full-time county employees are on either the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS) or the Kansas Police and Fireman's Retirement System (KP&F). Both are statewide pension plans. The county funds all accrued pension costs.[17]

In 2010, Shawnee County spent $2,500,000 for KPERS pensions and $913,000 for KP&F pensions.[17]

OPEBs

Shawnee County has accrued $4,538,526 in unfunded liabilities for its employees' other post-employment benefits (OPEBs).[17]

Domestic violence prosecution controversy

In an attempt to make budget cuts, Shawnee County and the City of Topeka both tried to put the responsibility of prosecuting domestic violence onto the other. When District Attorney Chad Taylor announced his department would no longer prosecute misdemeanor domestic violence cases in order to deal with a 10% budget cut, Topeka responded by decriminalizing domestic violence -- moving the burden from its own municipal court back to the county level. The move resulted in national outcry, and also effectively forced Taylor's hand. Taylor has reversed his earlier decision and the county will continue being responsible for prosecuting domestic violence cases.[18]

Taxes

Shawnee County's property tax levy was 43.165 for 2011, up from 41.016 the prior year. The state's property tax levy is 1.500. In addition, townships, school districts, drain projects, fire departments and others have levies on top of the state and county levies. Total property tax rates for Shawnee residents range from 109.826 to 156.678.[19]

Transparency

County Auditor Stacey Woolington and others have called for more transparency in the county's budget process. Specifically, she suggested that department heads be required to explain their duties and describe what the effect would be of a 10% increase or decrease in each department's funding.[20]

External links

References

  1. U.S. Census Bureau "QuickFacts," Accessed November 21, 2011
  2. Shawnee County "Visitor Info," Accessed November 21, 2011
  3. Shawnee County "Clerk: Budgets," Accessed November 21, 2011
  4. Access Kansas "Online Property Tax Payments," Accessed November 21, 2011
  5. Shawnee County "Appraiser's Office," Accessed November 21, 2011
  6. Shawnee County "Commission," Accessed November 21, 2011
  7. Shawnee County "Meeting and Agenda Archives," Accessed November 21, 2011
  8. Shawnee County "Purchasing Department," Accessed November 21, 2011
  9. Shawnee County "Permits," Accessed November 21, 2011
  10. Shawnee County "Zoning Descriptions," Accessed November 21, 2011
  11. Shawnee County "Phone Directory," Accessed November 21, 2011
  12. Shawnee County "Administrative Division," Accessed November 21, 2011
  13. Shawnee County "About the Board," Accessed November 21, 2011
  14. The Topeka Capital-Journal "Concerns remain on treasurer's cash drawers," Accessed November 21, 2011
  15. The Topeka Capital-Journal "Unhappy with D.A., county asks A.G. to investigate treasurer," Accessed November 21, 2011
  16. Shawnee County "2012 Budget," Accessed November 21, 2011
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Shawnee County "2010 CAFR," Accessed November 21, 2011
  18. ABC News "Kansas DA Says He Will Prosecute Domestic Violence After All," Accessed November 21, 2011
  19. Shawnee County "2011 Tax Levy Sheets," Accessed November 21, 2011
  20. The Topeka Capital-Journal "County: Make budget more transparent," Accessed November 21, 2011
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