With a recent resignation, the Ford County Sheriff's Department is down to three investigators where it will stay.
A reduction of the Sheriff's Department personnel allocation accounted for the majority of the roughly $106,000 the Ford County Commission sought to reduce to keep the property tax levy stagnant for the 2015 budget during its work session, Thursday.
Sheriff Dean Bush agreed to reduce the number of investigators from four to three, a savings of approximately $77,000 per year when salary, overtime, employment taxes and fringe benefits were taken into account.
More leeway was discovered through a recent reclassification of ranking staff members to exclude them from receiving overtime payments.
The last bit was a chip from the senior services portion of the mill levy. Instead of a $33,000 increase as requested, those payments will increase by $15,000 for 2015. Up to a single mill can be set aside for the use of senior-related programs.
For 2015, the county has put forward a tentative budget that will slightly reduce the mill levy from 41.057 to 41.045. Those figures could change as the valuation number used is an estimate and more accurate figures will not be available until after the county is statutorily required to file its budget with the state.
The rural fire district levy paid by Ford County residents outside of incorporated cities will increase from a rate of 6.479 to a rate of 7.161 to provide for a 12-year equipment replacement plan.
"It's not the problems you create that take up all your time but the ones you inherent," Commissioner Danny Gillum said at a previous meeting.
"We've inherited a mess since there was no sustainability plan," he said, Thursday.
"We struggled with this one quite a while," County Chairman Chris Boys said.
Commissioner Shawn Tasset reluctantly agreed to the boost, but said that with further cuts and unfunded mandates coming from the state, the county needed to find new sources of revenue.
Future wind farms that have received permits for construction may be a way to "patch the hole," Tasset said.
If the proposal to merge Fort Hays State University and Dodge City Community College is ultimately approved, the county may reconsider wind farm payments made to the community college at the behest of a county resolution that passed along that revenue, Boys said at the previous budget meeting.
The largest cut from the first-draft budget was covered stables at the Ford County Expo Center to allow for horse shows at the property.
In the future, the "Why Not Dodge?" sales tax will be looked at as a possible source to make those improvements, as the building and its events "put heads in beds" that ultimately benefit the city's sales tax and overnight guest tax revenues.
Boys also said he speaking with a local man who is looking for ways to give from a trust fund for a potential philanthropic donation to the expo.
The Commission will approve the date to hold a public hearing on the budget at its regular meeting, Monday.
Once the public notice is published, the Commission could lower property taxes but not raise them beyond the figure enumerated in the notice.
The Commission will continue looking at the two budgets for the Sheriff's Department, the jail and patrol divisions, as they have continuing concerns about the cost of the law enforcement agency in comparison to comparable counties.
Rather than look at the bottom lines, Sheriff Dean Bush urged the Commission, they should make sure they are comparing "apples to apples" and look to the expenses, such as utilities, that each of the county's sheriffs are obligated to pay from their budgets.