Note: This “Jackson County News Update” column was published the week of April 19, 1998 in several weekly newspapers in Jackson County, Mo.
Tax savings and efficiency:
Good reasons to celebrate National County Government Week, April 19-25
KANSAS CITY, Mo, April 19, 1998 (Jackson County Executive Office) —
This week, Jackson County joins more than 1,000 county governments nationwide in celebrating National County Government Week.
The theme for this year’s celebration, which goes from April 19 through 25, is “Creating Sustainable Communities.” Counties throughout the nation are publicizing their efforts to make their governments more responsive to the needs of their constituents.
Improving Jackson County government is an ongoing goal for the county’s more than 2,000 employees. As county executive, I have overseen a variety of projects that have assured that Jackson County taxpayers get the most for their tax dollars.
This government has embarked on two major campaigns to provide better services to its residents:
- reducing expenditures (and saving tax dollars) by cooperative efforts with city governments within the county; and
- updating equipment and new construction that has replaced obsolete structures and modernizing current facilities to meet the growing demand for county services.
Saving county revenues through city-county cooperation
Combined city-county tax bill. In the past, Kansas City property tax bills were mailed in September and due October 31, and Jackson County tax bills were mailed in early November and due December 31. But in 1997, for the first time, the county collected the city property tax bills for Kansas City residents who live in Jackson County. This meant that about 160,000 property tax bills, previously collected by city workers, were now collected by the county.
Also, it meant that city residents didn’t have to remember two different deadlines for taxes, because the combined bill was due on December 31. The city pays the county $300,000, but by contracting with the county to collect taxes, the city saves the expense of updating its computer system, a savings of about $2 million.
Printing contract. The county used to pay $4,500 a year to maintain a printing press that was more than a decade old. In 1997, it retired the press (and, as a result, the maintenance fee), and decided not to replace it with a new system. Instead, the county contracted with the city to produce the county’s envelopes, business cards, and letterhead. The county paid the city $1,480 for this service in 1997.
Sharing park equipment. A dozen Jackson County parks are within the Kansas City boundaries. It is inefficient for the county to haul its equipment for every maintenance job. As a result, the county and the city began sharing equipment, and has already realized savings of $21,000.
Expenditures and construction improves county efficiency
Improved radios for Sheriff’s Department.Technical problems with the department’s radio equipment was becoming a safety concern for our law enforcement officers. This year, the county will spend more than $400,000 to purchase up to 100 mobile and hand-held radios, as well as new split dispatch consoles. This equipment will be more powerful than the older radios, and should ensure that deputy sheriffs will not experience “dead spots” when requesting information or assistance.
Bridge construction project. The Jackson County Public Works Department is spending more than $2.2 million to renovate five major bridges and 23 smaller one – our biggest bridge construction project in decades. It should improve safety, speed up traffic, and reduce the danger of flooding for many Jackson County residents.
New morgue. In November 1997, the county opened a new Jackson County Morgue, which is on the ground floor of the Diagnostic Treatment Center near Truman Medical Center on Kansas City’s Hospital Hill. County voters in March 1997 approved authorizing bonds to fund the construction of the new morgue, which is more modern, efficient, and convenient than the old facilities used by the medical examiner.
The morgue is supervised by Dr. Thomas Young, the county’s first board-certified forensic pathologist.
New jail annex.Later this year, the new jail annex is expected to be completed, which will help relieve overcrowding at the current jail. The annex will add more than 200 beds to the current facility, which currently houses more than 600, and will have increased security provisions.
New records center. In 1996, the county opened a new Records Center at 1560 West Geospace Drive, in the cave complex underneath Independence. Before the new center was completed, records were stored in seven offices throughout in the county with little organization and no way to protect older documents from moisture or the weather. The new center has 15 million pages of probate and circuit court documents, and 7,000 volumes of court index books, all in a climate-controlled environment. It also has a research room equipped with computers, microfilm readers and photocopiers for members of the public to review and research documents.
Trigen chilled-water system. Later this year, three Jackson County buildings will be the first in the area to be connected to an innovative chilled-water cooling system that will save the county a million dollars in energy bills. The new Trigen-Missouri Energy Corp. system provides air-conditioning by pumping cool water through pipes into each building’s air-handlers. The new system is more energy-efficient than the current one, and should cut 10 percent off the annual air cooling bills for 11 county, city, and federal government buildings in downtown Kansas City.
“Millenium Bug” conversion. By spending about $1 million over the next two years, we will prevent a crisis that could endanger millions of dollars of revenue, not just for the county, but for the 48 cities, schools, fire districts, libraries, and other government units that depend on the county to collect and distribute its taxes. The expenditure will update our computer system to avoid the so-called “Year 2000 bug” that would have jeopardized revenue collection after the year 1999. The county has already updated about one-third of its computer systems and expects to complete the rest by late 1999.
These are just a few examples of how your county government is working to provide the best services possible to you.
Best of all, these improvements were provided to you without an increase in county taxes. As I said before, the theme for this National County Government Week is . “Creating Sustainable Communities” – and, in Jackson County, that means providing services that are “sustainable” for your wallet, too.
Note: From 1997 to 1998, “Jackson County News Update” newspaper columns were written by Rod Perlmutter, the Public Information Officer of Jackson County, Mo. This column appeared under the byline of Jackson County Executive Katheryn Shields and was distributed to several publications in the Kansas City area. Jackson County has more than 600,000 residents, including most of Kansas City, Mo.