Archive for Thursday, January 4, 2007

County challenged to maintain success

January 4, 2007

Happy New Year, Johnson County.

New Year's resolutions tend to focus on improvements. The New Year brings another 12 months of opportunities to recommit to our community, ensuring that the quality of life we enjoy remains unequalled.

Irving Berlin once said, "The toughest thing about success is that you've got to keep on being successful."

Such is Johnson County's challenge. Fortunately, the formula for our success is pretty simple: Focus on providing the best basic services possible while meeting the demands of the people who proudly call Johnson County their home. As a result, more than 10,000 people locate in Johnson County every year. As 2007 begins, I'd like to highlight some successes of the past year and glance at the year ahead.

Reflections on success:

  • In 2006, Johnson County demonstrated budgetary restraint and held the line on property taxes for the 2007 fiscal year. In fact, Johnson County boasted the lowest property tax levy among the 105 counties in Kansas. That's living up to our goal of being good stewards of our taxpayers' money and wisely investing their money in ways that enrich the community and the quality of life to be found in Johnson County.
  • Last year, six county departments relocated to the new Sunset Drive office building in Olathe. The facility has won numerous regional and national honors for its design, including the prestigious LEED Gold Certification for environmental and energy efficiency.
  • Construction of the Recovery Place in Shawnee also was completed in 2006, serving as a beacon of hope for people and their families facing substance abuse or severe mental illness. The facility is the new location for Johnson County Mental Health's Adult Detoxification Unit, once located in Kansas City, Kan.; Breakthrough House, formerly located in Merriam; and the after-hours call center, a 24/7 emergency hotline and professional guidance program.
  • Both projects reflect a wise investment of taxpayer dollars by ending the use of costly leased space, increasing productivity through centralized services and energy-saving public facilities.
  • The county continues to deliver high-quality services and programs amid increasing demands, doing for people what they cannot do for themselves. A significant example from this past year was the offering by Johnson County government, in partnership with the National Association of Counties, of a discount card program that saves citizens money when they purchase prescription drugs.

So, what's ahead?

  • In 2007, the county continues to dedicate significant resources to important infrastructure projects in partnership with Johnson County cities in order to connect, serve, and protect all citizens and to fuel future economic development, growth and a robust local economy.
  • The county continues its commitment to provide economic development grants to local public school districts through its share of a quarter-cent sales tax through the end of 2008. During the renewal period (2006-2008), the sales tax is expected to generate almost $54.4 million for the school districts and about $1.2 million for the county to fund public safety and capital projects. Sixteen Johnson County cities will receive an estimated $31.2 million for their own discretionary use from the tax.
  • In just a few weeks, the County Commission will begin deliberating the 2008 budget, which will focus heavily on public safety needs and existing programs provided by county government. These include the need for a new courthouse and jail, crime lab and emergency communications center, which top the list of public safety needs in the community.

Yes, the New Year is a time to pause and reflect; a time to consider new challenges and to set a bold course for the future. While things have been good, we know that we can always do better.

Our citizens expect the highest quality of county services and programs at a cost they can afford. They expect to be safe in their homes and neighborhoods. They expect that their children will receive the best education available. They expect leadership and wise investment of their money by their elected officials. All these things and more will be the focus of your elected county officials as we begin another year working for you.

Again, I wish a happy and healthy New Year to all Johnson Countians.

- Annabeth Surbaugh is the elected chair of the Johnson County Commission.

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