By JONATHAN ZWEYGARDT
As the Ellis County Commission continues to work through the 2023 budget process, it will consider the largest funding request from outside agencies in the last five years.
Last month, the commission heard updates from 20 of the 21 outside agencies requesting funds as part of the 2023 budget process.
In previous budget conversations, the commission had requested that each agency request the same funding for 2023 that they are set to receive in 2022.
According to commission documents, the agencies requested $1.387 million for 2023, an increase of $280,000 from the year before.
The 2023 request from the Ellis County Historical Society was among the largest increases from 2022.
After receiving $72,000 in both 2021 and 2022, the society has requested $150,000 for 2023.
The county commission was critical of the group’s perceived lack of a plan last year. But since then, members of the group have come before the commission several times to update them on the society’s progress.
“The board has decided and taken a vote, that we are going to save the brick church building and we are going to be a vibrant part of downtown again,” Historical Society Executive Director Amanda Rupp told the commission.
Commission Chair Butch Schlyer was the most vocal critic of the historical society last year but was complementary of the group’s efforts this year.
“You have done a bang-up job throughout the year, and I think you guys are really on your way to doing something,” Schlyer said. “It is really good, valuable that there is a historical perspective in the community.”
Rupp told the commission they are continuing to apply for grant opportunities to help fund their efforts but they need the staff to manage the grants.
“I’m very pleased to say that the small staff that we had has done a massive amount of work in the past year,” Rupp said. “We have the people here that want to do the work and (are) dedicated.”
Rupp said most of the grants have to be used for a specific purpose and the majority of the county funding will be used for operational costs.
“We have secured almost $70,000 worth of grants and donations this year,” Rupp said.
Grow Hays also requested an increase from 2022. Since the commission voted not to fund the Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development, now Grow Hays in 2019, the group received $27,500 in 2020 and 2021 and will get $150,000 in 2022.
Executive Director Doug Williams told the county commission the increased funding, from both the county and City of Hays, allowed Grow Hays to add David Clingan, Director of Recruitment and Retention.
“Since that time, we’re able to obtain a $2.63 million base grant from the state of Kansas for the construction of a microfactory that will go up at the corner of Ninth and Commerce Parkway,” Williams said.
He added that, “In the time that David’s been here, we’ve never had more retail prospects and other prospect for things going on then we do right now.”
Grow Hays has requested an increase of $30,000 in funding for 2023.
Last year, Williams, on behalf of Grow Hays, had requested that the county earmark funding equivalent to a half-mill for economic development. The commission was against the idea.
Williams said this year’s request is still less than what half-mill would equal, “but we still feel that is a significant investment and will allow us to do what we need to do.”
Schlyer asked what Grow Hays will do with the increased funding.
Williams said they will use the funding for extra staffing.
The Kid-Link Program through Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas was a new funding request for 2023 but the county has previously help to fund the program.
The Hays Area Children’s Center had previously provided the Tiny K Part C services.
Sarah Biggs, Director of Programs for DSNWK said the state asked DSNWK’s Kid-Link to take on the early intervention services and that more than doubled the program.
They requested $120,000 for 2023.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ellis County was also a new agency requesting funding in 2023. They requested $5,000.
The commission have scheduled a meeting for later this month to discuss budget requests from department heads.
The 2023 budget is scheduled to be published in August with final approval set for September.