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johnson county government

The Johnson County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) is responsible for enacting legislation, levying and appropriating taxes and setting budgets, and Johnson County residents are strongly encouraged to engage with county government and have their voices heard. Weekly BOCC meetings are open to the public and streamed online. Many of our departments and agencies have advisory boards that depend on citizen participation. Johnson County residents who are registered to vote elect the BOCC members, District Attorney and Sheriff, so the more you know, the more empowered your vote. This is a great place to get educated and start engaging.

Government News

BOCC adopts its 2019-2020 priorities

After several months of work, study and discussion, today the Board of County Commissioners unanimously adopted its 2019-2020 priorities. The board, along with staff, held a 1 1/2 day retreat in January, followed by discussions at Board of County Commissioner meetings and a March study session.

The BOCC has identified the following top three priorities for 2019-2020:

1.  Complete/advance existing projects approved by voters and the Board of County Commissioners with efficiency and effectiveness.

2. Strengthen and finance the appropriate level of service to meet the needs of the county’s vulnerable populations, pursuing innovative strategies.

3. Develop a creative and innovative vision for a transit plan that is financially sustainable.

In this attached document you can learn more about these priorities as well as other topics identified.

“I want to thank our board, Executive Leadership Team members, the County Manager’s Office and other staff who played a role in the important work that lead to today’s adoption,” said County Manager Penny Postoak Ferguson. “I look forward to our collaborative efforts during the next two years on these priorities and the positive impact they will have on the residents we serve.”


Boards and committees assigned for BOCC

Our Board of County Commissioners wear many different hats. One of those hats is serving as liaisons to or members on a variety of boards and committees. Some are related to county government departments and agencies; others are regional boards or committees that work on issues benefiting the metro and the region.

Chairman Ed Eilert has finalized the board and committee assignments for 2019. If you go to the BOCC page and click on each commissioner’s bio, you can access their assignments.

Commissioner Jim Allen has been re-appointed as Vice Chairman of the BOCC for 2019.

JoCo named Stepping Up Innovator County

Johnson County was selected as one of seven counties in the nation as a Stepping Up Innovator County for its expertise in taking actions to reduce the number of people in jail who experience mental illness.

As an Innovator County, Johnson County’s efforts will be highlighted as part of a new push from Stepping Up: A National Initiative to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jails to help counties consistently identify and collect data on this population.

“On behalf of the Board of County Commissioners, I want to congratulate the county professionals — mental health clinicians, law enforcement officers and many others — who have worked hard to earn this national designation and to better serve our community’s vulnerable populations,” said Chairman Ed Eilert.

Since being selected to join the Stepping Up initiative as one of the first four participating jurisdictions, Johnson County expanded its mental health co-responder program across the county to include 11 police jurisdictions and 14 cities; implemented a brief mental health screen during jail booking; enhanced the partnership between the Mental Health Center and the Department of Corrections; developed a veterans treatment court; improved outreach efforts to the community; and strengthened data-sharing efforts through My Resource Connection, a county database connecting residents to services they need. 

Learn more about the county’s new designation as an Innovator County online.

County community survey maintains strong results

Johnson County Government’s latest community satisfaction survey shows residents continue to have a very high satisfaction level with their quality of life.

Results of the 2018 community satisfaction survey were released Thursday during a county commission study session. The county’s overall satisfaction index was the same as in 2017 and has increased 6 points since 2011.

“Our residents gave Johnson County a 98 percent satisfaction rating as a place to live, a 96 percent satisfaction rating as a place to raise to children, and an 89 percent satisfaction rating as a place to work,” said Commission Chairman Ed Eilert. “We are pleased to see consistent results when compared to last year’s already high ratings and we continue to use this information to make informed decisions for the community.”

The 2018 findings indicate Johnson County sets the standard for service delivery compared to other U.S. communities, according to survey data benchmarked against other major U.S. counties. Johnson County’s satisfaction rating for overall quality of county services is 39 percent above the national average for communities with populations above 250,000.

“Each year, our community satisfaction survey allows us to ask residents for feedback on county services and their overall perceptions of the county. We are grateful to everyone who took time to complete the survey and we will use the information to better serve our residents,” said Interim County Manager Penny Postoak Ferguson. “These survey results show us that residents across the county continue to be pleased with the overall quality of services we provide.” 

General county perceptions

Surveyed residents indicated high satisfaction with a range of factors that influence perceptions of living in Johnson County. Ninety-three percent of respondents said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of life.

Quality of life rated 20 percent above the national average and 22 percent above the large community average. The image of the county rated 29 percent above the national average and 30 percent above the large community average.

Residents generally feel safe in the county. Ninety-one percent of respondents had an overall feeling of safety in the county, with 96 percent saying they feel safe in the neighborhoods during the day and 90 percent reporting feeling safe at night.

When asked which county services were most important to provide and should be emphasized over the next two years, respondents top answers were:

  1. Sheriff’s Office
  2. MED-ACT
  3. Park & Recreation District
  4. Library

Residents indicated the top three areas that the county should invest in that would have the greatest impact on improving overall citizen satisfaction ratings are:

  1. Sheriff’s Office
  2. Human Services
  3. Mental Health

Satisfaction with county services

Respondents were also asked to assess their satisfaction with 22 county departments. The top five county services with the highest community satisfaction ratings were:

  1. Johnson County Library
  2. Johnson County Park & Recreation District
  3. Johnson County MED-ACT
  4. Johnson County K-State Research and Extension
  5. Johnson County Election Office

County management contracted with Olathe-based ETC Institute to conduct a comprehensive community survey in February. The survey was mailed to a random sample of county households; approximately seven days after the surveys were mailed, residents who received a survey were contacted by phone. Of the households that received a survey, 1,429 respondents completed surveys, resulting in a 95 percent confidence level for the survey findings.

Full results of the 2018 community satisfaction survey are available online.

April-March issue of The Best Times mailed to readers

The March-April issue of The Best Times, a bimonthly magazine for Johnson County’s 60-plus population, is on the way to its readership.

The cover story showcases volunteer drivers with the Catch-a-Ride program of the Johnson County Department of Human Services and calls attention to April being National Volunteer Month. In 2017, 103 Catch-a-Ride volunteers provided 5,657 one-way rides to vulnerable residents of Johnson County.

The March-April issue also offers:

  • A unique celebration on Valentine’s Day for a woman turning 105;
  • Johnson County plans to celebrate Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 11;
  • Johnson County prepares for Severe Weather Awareness Week from March 4-10;
  • April 28 is a busy day with the open house at the TimberRidge Adventure Center and Mildale Farm Community Day;
  • Johnson County Park & Recreation District is launching a website upgrade at the end of March; and,
  • Spring cleaning brings the opportunity to recycle some of that unwanted clutter.

Get the current issue now.

BOCC names interim county manager

The Johnson County Board of County Commissioners today named Penny Postoak Ferguson as interim county manager, effective Jan. 1, 2018. The appointment by the commission was unanimous in a vote following an executive session this afternoon.

Postoak Ferguson has served as deputy county manager since 2012 when she was promoted from assistant county manager. 

“I’ve worked with Ms. Postoak Ferguson at the city level as well as in her current position as deputy county manager and I have every confidence that she will be able to bring the continuity and leadership that will maintain our community as a great place to live, work and raise a family,” said Chairman Ed Eilert. “In addition to her demonstrated talent, she is very well-respected within her profession. I look forward to the important work that must be accomplished and she has my full support.”

Ferguson has served as assistant city manager in San Antonio, Texas; deputy and assistant city manager in Overland Park, Kansas; core manager/executive director of budget and research for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas; and as assistant city manager in Hays, Kansas. 

Today’s vote followed a public comment period in which many employees and members of the public spoke in support of County Manager Hannes Zacharias. By majority vote, the original decision not to renew Zacharias’ contract after Dec. 31, 2017, was upheld.

“Many of us have had the pleasure and honor of working with Mr. Zacharias and we want to thank him for the work he has done for our county the past 16 years,” Eilert said. “Staying true to the Athenian Oath, Hannes is truly leaving our county a much better place than he found it, and for that we are extremely grateful.  We wish him all the best in the future.” 

Ferguson's biography is available online.

Statement from county manager regarding BOCC vote

"A majority of the Johnson County Commission has voted to not renew my contract to serve as County Manager, effective Dec. 31, 2017. As all managers know, this is their right. As expressed to me, the majority wants to take Johnson County in a more fiscally and socially conservative direction, impose more direct oversight by the commission over county operations, and adopt a more 'laissez-faire' attitude toward regulation. Although this governmental decision runs somewhat contrary to the County Charter, I respect it.

"I want to use this space, however, to say thank you to the citizens of Johnson County, the governing body members, and the more than 4,000 employees I have had the pleasure to serve with these past 16 years. Together, we steered the Johnson County community through the worst recession in memory, reducing staff by 12 percent and ongoing expenses by $47 million — all the while maintaining an inspired workforce and increasing citizen satisfaction, as measured by the ETC Institute, the Olathe-based company that conducts annual county-wide surveys. During my tenure, we have added more libraries and parks, opened the Arts and Heritage Center, added to the county trail system, passed a sales tax to replace the outdated courthouse and medical examiner facility, and planned for the replacement of the Tomahawk wastewater facility. These are some of the largest undertakings in the county’s history.

"On my watch as county manager, we have integrated services for vulnerable populations, made our mental health services more robust, and have maintained Johnson County as the healthiest county in the state. We have integrated our criminal justice system and are inventing ways to reduce pre-trial incarceration, which makes our system the envy of much of the country. We are national award winners in virtually every area of county government and have received the trust and confidence of county residents, who routinely rate us at 95 percent or above in citizen satisfaction polls. It’s no secret that Johnson County sets the standard nationally. We have done so while maintaining coveted AAA bond ratings and the lowest mill levy of any county in Kansas. By virtually all measures, Johnson County ranks in the top 1 percent of all counties in the United States.

"I am most proud of the culture our organization has fostered. County staff is focused on doing the right thing, for the right reason, for the public good. It is an organization dedicated to public service, striving for constant improvement, and living the Athenian oath: to leave this community better than we found it. As I leave this position, I certainly hope that I have lived up to this standard.

"I love Johnson County and the Kansas City region. I am sorry that, come Dec. 31, I will not be able to lead the outstanding county workforce in delivering the award-winning services Johnson County residents want and deserve. Until then, I intend to complete my duties and assist in the orderly transition to another manager.

"My hope is that I can express my passion and talents to help this region and Johnson County prosper and grow in some other capacity come Dec. 31. Thank you for the privilege to serve."

Statement from chairman regarding county manager

“It is with great disappointment that I am writing to inform our county staff that the Board of County Commissioners voted today 4-3 not to extend the contract of County Manager Hannes Zacharias. To provide the 30-day notice, as required in his contract, his service as county manager will end effective Dec. 31, 2017.

“As I stated prior to and following the vote, I do not agree with the decision and believe it is not the correct action for our county commission to take. This vote does not reflect in any negative way on the moral, ethical or professional character of Mr. Zacharias, as I and others stated as the vote was taken.

“Our county has many successes and achievements which are due to the leadership of Mr. Zacharias since his appointment in August 2009. He brought a wealth of experience in local government to our county and I am extremely grateful for his public service career with Johnson County. I wish him success in his future.

“In the coming weeks, we will begin the process to determine the selection of the next county manager.

“I very much appreciate all of our county employees’ hard work and leadership which have resulted in the nationally recognized services that our county taxpayers have come to expect from our organization. I trust your demonstrated commitment to the positive results of the organization will continue throughout the transition period. Thank you.”

Lineage Logistics Facility at New Century AirCenter

Some questions have been raised about the planned Lineage Logistics cold storage facility at the New Century AirCenter Industrial Park. It will be a warehouse where frozen foods are received, stored and then distributed; it will not manufacture or process any chemicals. The facility will use anhydrous ammonia only as a refrigerant in a closed loop system inside the facility to maintain the necessary level of cold temperatures. Anhydrous ammonia is commonly used as a refrigerant in similar facilities that store or process food and beverage products. It also is widely used in agriculture for growing farm crops. See FAQs for more information on this site.

Commission adopts 2018 budget, includes mill levy reduction

The Johnson County Commission today adopted the county’s fiscal year 2018 budget. The budget includes about a quarter-mill reduction of the county general fund mill levy.

“This budget meets the county’s needs and allows us to reduce the county general fund mill levy,” said Ed Eilert, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners. “The budget the commission adopted today includes a quarter-mill reduction, and it increases the county’s reserves so it can better accommodate wastewater system improvements, weather a potential economic downturn and maintain our excellent credit ratings.”

The 2018 budget totals $1.06 billion, composed of $819.6 million in expenditures and $242.1 million in reserves.  

Of the $242.1 million in reserves, $106 million is for Johnson County Wastewater (JCW), a fee-funded utility, which does not receive property tax support and does not receive revenue from residents who are not served by JCW. The reserve is for the construction of a new treatment plant and additional costs associated with sending wastewater to Kansas City, Missouri, for treatment until the new facility is built.

The remainder of the reserves are as follows: $81.1 million for general fund, $12.1 million for county operations, $16.7 million for fee-funded services including stormwater operations, airport and 9-1-1 services, and $25.3 million for parks and libraries.

“The adopted budget increases resources to public safety and elections and allows the county to meet the ever-growing demand for our services,” said County Manager Hannes Zacharias. “This budget adheres to the commission’s direction to maintain a constant mill levy or reduce if prudent.”

The total estimated county mill levy is 26.276 mills — a reduced mill levy when compared to 2017. This includes an estimated mill levy of 19.259 for the county taxing district, 3.915 mills for libraries, and 3.102 mills for park and recreation.

The 2018 budget includes a Capital Improvement Program totaling more than $159.6 million:

  • $77.4 million for wastewater capital projects;
  • $15 million for the Stormwater Management Program;
  • $14.9 million for the County Assistance Road System (CARS) program;
  • $14.8 million for park and recreation capital projects;
  • $13.1 million for election office upgrades to voting machines.

Total estimated revenue from ad valorem taxes is $247.6 million, comprising $186.5 million for the county taxing district, $31.1 million for libraries, and $30 million for park and recreation.

The adopted budget funds a maximum of 3,949.72 full-time-equivalent employees (a total increase of 62.73 FTEs from 2017).

Positons added include:

  • Johnson County Library’s request to hire 38 new positions for the new Monticello branch in Shawnee set to open in 2018, plus four information specialists, a civic engagement coordinator, collections clerk and IT analyst.
  • To facilitate the opening of new parks and facilities, the Park and Recreation District has budget approval to fill 10 FTEs, including regional park managers and assistant park managers, park workers, an administrative assistant, recreation coordinator, facility maintenance supervisor and natural resources technician.
  • Johnson County MED-ACT will fill 12 FTEs, all paramedics, under the 2018 budget. Seven of these positions are to support staffing of two Overland Park MED-ACT ambulances that Johnson County will assume operations of in 2018 and the remaining five positions will enhance current MED-ACT operations to meet call volumes.
  • The District Attorney’s office will hire two assistant district attorneys and an investigator in 2018.
  • Emergency Management and Communications will fill two emergency communications specialist positions in the next fiscal year.

The county’s budget includes a 13.3 percent increase in the county general services expenditure budget — 6.8 percent of the increase comes from the voter-approved public safety sales tax to fund a new courthouse and coroner facility. The sales tax sunsets in 2027.

On average, residential property owners will pay $885 in county property taxes for 2018 — about $74 per month, based on the average home value in the county which is approximately $293,000.

The new budget must be approved and certified to the county clerk by Aug. 25. The county’s department of Records and Tax Administration (RTA), acting in the capacity of county clerk, must calculate mill levies and taxes for certification to the county treasurer for collection on or before Nov. 1.

The final setting of the 2018 mill levy will be established by the county clerk with new property valuations by RTA.

Johnson County’s fiscal year begins Jan. 1. FY 2018 budget documents are available online at jocogov.org.

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