“The state of our county is good.” That was the message on Tuesday from Johnson County Chairman Ed Eilert, as he bragged about the county’s 4.5 percent unemployment rate and dramatic increase in housing starts.
In his annual State of the County address, Eilert acknowledged it wasn’t easy to keep expenditures in line with revenues last year. The county consolidated government departments and reduced the work force by the equivalent of more than 430 jobs through early retirement and attrition.
But Johnson County won’t continue to thrive as the economic engine of the state, he said, unless the state continues its commitment to public schools. Families and businesses have long moved to Johnson County because of the county’s high-performing school districts.
“So far as I understand it," Eilert said, "there’s been a willingness at least on the part of the Administration not to make too deep … cuts. Whether or not that is still with us in the future, nobody knows, but the level of funding the state is able to provide to the public school system is key to Johnson County.”
The issue of school funding has been one of the most contentious issues in Topeka and is currently tied up in court.
The Chairman also said infrastructure would suffer if money from the state gas tax was cut. Gas tax revenue is used by cities to maintain and build roads. Cities are not allowed by law to levy gas taxes.
“If that money disappears, “Eilert said, “road building ... road maintenance probably comes to a stop.”
View the script of Chairman Eilert’s State of Johnson County address here.