Cowley County Commissioner Tuesday voted to unanimously approve the county’s budget for 2014.
The budget calls for county spending to increase over this year by about $4 million, or just under 20 percent, to $23.9 million. Much of that spending will fund remodeling of the south courthouse annex in Winfield for use as a 911 dispatch center and the day to day operation of the newly consolidated dispatch services.
The budget also calls for a mill levy increase of just over 2 mills. Last year, commissioners lowered the levy by about 3 mills, which means it will still be lower in 2014 than it was in 2012, county officials said.
Commissioners also have begun setting aside funds for a merit-based system of awarding employee raises.
The county has long given raises based on longevity, rather than merit. Department heads are currently in discussions to create a merit-based system.
County administrator Jeremy Willmoth has previously said he believed merit based raises to be more effective for rewarding employees when compared to across the board raises.
The county is working on a $3.5 million project to remodel a consolidated dispatch center and will spend more than a half million dollars beyond that to pay dispatchers and fund day-to-day operations.
A budget report prepared for commissioners showed that county spending would actually go down if not for the addition of the emergency communications department.