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County Commissioner Says Raises Could Be Cut To Save Boys Ranch

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Karl Peterjohn says it's an option that's not getting the attention it deserves.

"It could save $4 million a year," Peterjohn said.

The Sedgwick County Commissioner says county workers could save programs and jobs by giving up the possibility of a raise.

The proposed 2013 budget, presented Wednesday by County Manager William Buchanan, calls for a three percent merit raise pool.

Sedgwick County faces a $9.3 million shortfall.

"The idea of keeping some positions instead of keeping the pay raises appeals to a lot of the county employees I've heard from," Peterjohn said.

He's heard from a lot of employees and other people lately, people who say the proposed closure of the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch at Lake Afton is the wrong way to right the budget ship.

"I've gotten more communications on that issue than any other single item," Peterjohn said.

Peterjohn says the raises are a much better place to look for cuts, with a larger possible reward.

"It's a good deal more than what we've been talking about with the Boys Ranch," Peterjohn said.

But others, such as Commissioner Dave Unruh, disagree. Unruh says the raises are there to offset a major cost increase to the employees' benefits package. He says the raises are necessary for Sedgwick County to remain competitive.

"It's a tough time, but I don't want to lose all of our people," Unruh said.

In terms of the Boys Ranch, Unruh says there's a larger problem to be solved.

"It's a state program, it's not a local program," Unruh said. "We have been subsidizing it somewhere around a million and a half dollars a year and our resources don't permit us to do it."

He says the State is not likely to be pulling its weight any time soon, either.

"So, we are just delaying the pain," Unruh said.

But Peterjohn says if county employees can take the pain right now by giving up their raises, it'll pay off.

"If we don't do the pay increase, we wouldn't have to eliminate so many positions," Peterjohn said.

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Public hearings are scheduled for July 25, August 9, and August 14 in the commission meeting room at 525 N. Main, third floor in Wichita.

The Commission will vote on the budget August 15.


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