Unified Government, state budgets considered


by Murrel Bland

Budgets—both local and state—were the topics at the Legislative Committee meeting at the Chamber of Commerce office Friday, Aug. 14.

Mike Taylor, a spokesman for the Unified Government, said the city and county governments were able to hold the tax rate at 82 mills for 2016—the same rate as it has been for 2015.

The good news is that the assessed valuation in Wyandotte County is finally seeing an increase—about 4.5 percent. What that should mean to a typical taxpayer will be that property taxes should not increase in 2016.

The Unified Government’s portion of a typical tax bill is about 49 percent. The Kansas City, Kan., School District is not increasing its mill rate; the Kansas City Kansas Community College is increasing its mill rate slightly.

Although property taxes should not increase for most people in Wyandotte County, it is significant that the Unified Government’s 2016 budget, in dollars, is $323,879,585 compared to $295,617,522 for 2015. That’s an increase of nearly $28 million or nearly 9 percent.

In defense of the proposed increase in spending is the Unified Government’s plan finally to spend in areas that have been neglected during the past several years including parks and recreation, capital equipment, buildings and public safety. All Unified Government employees will receive pay raises. Taylor also said that fund balances will be rebuilt, which should help the Unified Government’s bond rating—what it pays when it borrows money.

Greg Kindle, the president of the Wyandotte Economic Development Council, said that the increase in assessed valuation shows that various economic development activities are paying off with an increased tax base. He pointed to a report from the Mid America Regional Council that claims, for the first time ever, more than 100,000 persons are employed in Wyandotte County. That ranks Kansas City, Kan., as 28th among 339 of the largest U.S. cities in job growth at 4.3 percent. Kindle said he hopes that 2015 will see more than $1 billion in new business development.

The news about the state budget–at $14.6 billion–is not nearly as good. That budget took effect July 1 and is the largest in state history, thanks to a massive shift from income to sales tax. Consumers will pay 6.5 percent sales tax while more than 300,000 professionals will get a substantial tax decrease. The governor has said that this tax decrease should spur the state economy with increased employment. Critics say this is false economy that hurts the broad middle class and those who can least afford to pay for such necessities as food.

Cathy Damron, the lobbyist for the Kansas City, Kan., Area Chamber of Commerce, said many of the financial issues will still face the Legislature when it meets early next year.

This tax shift forced Gov. Sam Brownback to rob other funds to balance his budget. More than $400 million was taken from the Kansas Department of Transportation. That is bad public policy; transportation funds should be used to build and repair roads and not used to play political games.

And the unknown factor in state finances continues to be funding education. The Kansas Supreme Court has yet to rule on the latest school finance case. If the court rules in favor of the plaintiff, it could mean the Legislature would have to come up with more money for schools.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.

Storms ahead, forecasters say

There is a marginal risk of severe weather today in the Kansas City area. (National Weather Service graphic)
There is a marginal risk of severe weather today in the Kansas City area. (National Weather Service graphic)

Showers and storms will return to the region starting today with a marginal threat of severe storms in the Kansas City area, according to the National Weather Service.

The main threat with any strong storms today will be hail and locally gusty winds along with torrential rain, the weather service said.

Monday’s forecast includes a 30 percent chance of rain and storms mainly after 4 p.m., the weather service said. The high will be near 89.

Monday night, expect a 40 percent chance of showers and storms, with a low of 72, according to the weather service.

Strong to severe storms will be possible Tuesday afternoon and night through early Wednesday morning as a cold front moves through the region, the weather service said.

Tuesday, the chance of rain increases to 60 percent, the weather service said, and the high will be near 80.

The greatest chance for storms will also correspond with the greatest chance for severe weather, which will be the evening and overnight hours of Tuesday as the front moves through, according to the weather service.

Primary threats will once again be straight line winds and large hail, the weather service said. Torrential rain may also accompany these storms which might lead to flash flooding.

On Wednesday morning there will be a 30 percent chance of rain, according to the weather service.

This round of storms may be over by Wednesday night.

A cold front moving through Tuesday will provide  the focus for shear and instability to generate severe weather, according to the National Weather Service. (National Weather Service graphic)
A cold front moving through Tuesday will provide the focus for shear and instability to generate severe weather, according to the National Weather Service. (National Weather Service graphic)

Storms return this week, while temperatures are like those of early fall. (National Weather Service graphic)
Storms return this week, while temperatures are like those of early fall. (National Weather Service graphic)

Ritch Nigh edges brother for Wyco Open Golf Championship

Ritch Nigh (Photo from Alan Hoskins)
Ritch Nigh (Photo from Alan Hoskins)

Pat Seber-Bradley  (Photo from Alan Hoskins)
Pat Seber-Bradley (Photo from Alan Hoskins)

by Alan Hoskins

Over the years brothers Ritch and Reece Nigh have played a lot of golf together.

Two years ago, they won both the two-man best ball and two-man scramble events at Sunflower Hills and this year tied for first in both events.

But it was nothing like this year’s 39th annual Wyandotte County Open when they finished first and second in a torrid duel that went right down to the final putt – Ritch’s 3-footer for par for a final round 75 and 36-hole total of 148. Reece ‘s 74-75-149 was three shots better than Tom Bachelor and Brad Ansley.

“It was exciting,” said Ritch, who was willing to settle for first place in the A flight after 12 holes. A double bogey on the tough par 4 12th hole when he hit into trees to the right of the green had dropped him three shots back.

“I was in A flight and I said, ‘Maybe you can win the championship and I can win the A flight,’” Ritch said.

But he got two shots back on No. 14 with a 15-foot birdie putt while Reece missed a 2½ footer after coming up short in the front bunker. Ritch then got even on the difficult 15th with a par from 195 yards while Reece had to settle for bogey from a bunker right of the green.

“I thought he had shot 34 on the front nine and I was one down but he said no, that he had shot a 35,” Ritch said. “I said that makes it a whole different story.”

Deadlocked heading into the par 4 18th, Ritch yanked his drive across the cart path on the left side of the fairway and had to punch a 6-iron about 10 yards short of the green before chipping to within three feet.

Reece, however, had his second shot go over the green and came up some 12-15 feet short on his third shot.

“The ball didn’t release. Another foot and it would have been close,” said Ritch, who knocked in the three-footer for the win after Reece’s par attempt rolled past.

Trailing by two shots after an opening 74, Reece pulled even with two birdies on the first four holes on the final day.

“I missed the first three greens and had to get up and down for pars,” Ritch said. “My short game and my putting are probably the best parts of my game. The last six holes was what did it. I was one under par.”

A lifelong Wyandotte County resident in his 24th year with the KCK Fire Department, Ritch Nigh’s 72-76-148 was only a shot better than the 149 he shot two years ago in winning the A flight in the Wyco Open.

Last year, he caddied for his son, Easton, in the annual event. A Piper graduate, Nigh was a member of Piper’s state qualifying team that included two other Wyco champions, Eric Lashbrook and Chip DeMoss.

Seber-Bradley wins 8th women’s championship

Pat Seber-Bradley shot an opening round 84 and won the women’s championship going away with a 177 total that was nine strokes better than runnerup Chris Baird.

The championship was Seber-Bradley’s eighth, a tournament record.

While the men’s tournament was a duel between two brothers, it was also a good day for the Reid family. Jerry Reid won the men’s A flight while his wife, Donna, won the women’s A flight.

Other men’s flight winners were Joe Yoakum, Gary Burgess, Kyle Norris and Phil Hoffman. Leslie Taylor won Kansas City’s Longest Putt contest while Kevin Rome had the longest drive on both days, a tourney first.

2015 Wyandotte County Open
Championship – 1. Ritch Nigh, 148; 2. Reece Nigh, 149; 3. (tie) Tom Bachelor, Brad Ansley, 152; 5. (tie) Aaron Uzelac, Brian Perdieu, 153.
A Flight – 1. Jerry Reid, 152; 2. Tim Skorija, 153; 3. Kevin Rome, 157; 4. Dan Crabtree, 162; 5. Chris Mathia, 163; 6. Brett Ricky, 169.,
B – 1.Joe Yoakum*, 158; 2. Rick Egnatic, 158; 3. Rick Richardson, 160; 4. (tie) Danny Goodwin, Bob Chatterton, 161; 6. Easton Nigh, 162.
C- 1. Gary Burgess, 164; 2. Dave Hunt, 166; 3. Paul Palmer, 167; 4. Tony Reed, 169; 5. Jim Long, 171; 6. Jerry Verbeck, 173.
D – 1. Kyle Norris*, 170; 2. Dave Klein, 190; 3. Dan Brooks, 173; 4. Bob McNellis, 174; 5. (tie) Dough Winkelbauer, Len Zimmerman, 176.
E – 1. Phil Hoffman*, 180; 2. Bob Potter, 180; 3. Chad Cowher, 183; 4. John Hooser, 188; 5. Ralph Gianakon, 191; 6. Roger Miller, 193.
• -Won scorecard playoff.
Championship – 1. Pat Seber-Bardley, 177; 2. Chris Bair, 186; 3. Billie Easterberg, 194.
A Flight – 1. Donna Reid, 196; 2. Leslie Taylor, 201; 3. Jane Lamb, 208.
Proximity Prizes
Saturday – Kansas City’s longest putt, Leslie Taylor. Closest to pin – Billie Easterberg, No. 4; Mark Browne, No. 8; Stan Wiehe, No. 13; Dennis McWilliams II, No. 16. Longest putt – Norton Jizbalm, No. 9. Longest drive – Kevin Rome, No. 10.
Sunday – Closest to pin – Jerry Reid, No. 4; Rick Egnatic, No. 8; Easton Nigh, No. 13; Bob Chatterton, No. 16. Longest putt – Dave Klein, No. 9. Longest drive – Kevin Rome, No. 10.