FORT SCOTT, KS – Declining populations across rural America have been an issue for decades.
Not only does it shrink a community, it also takes away taxes many of them need for maintenance and improvements.
“The city and county have been working together on ways to save tax payers, because the tax payers for Fort Scott and the tax payers for Bourbon County are the same people.” Says Josh Jones, Fort Scott Mayor.
Working together might be the answer for Fort Scott and Bourbon County.
Like many rural areas across the country, they’ve been battling decreasing populations.
“The population has declined over the past hundred years, every time a census has come out we see a decline in population.” Says Jones.
Fort Scott has experienced a loss since the 1930’s, seeing a decline of more than 2,000 people.
“Part of that was the intriguing pull of urban America, the amenities they have, most universities and everything are in more urban areas.” Says Robert Harrington, BEDCO Economic Development Director.
Over the past year, the two entities have already been sharing, both employees and services.
“We did that a year ago with our finance director, the county uses her as business management, other ways we share is with public works, we had an agreement that they could help us out.” Says Jones.
Now, they are considering moving city hall offices to the Bourbon County Courthouse.
“What you look at is cost saving opportunities and this is possibly one where we can share costs without having to raise taxes for the citizens.” Says Jones. “This is nothing that’s set in stone, its the next step in city and county working together, yet we want to make sure we stay separate.”
Community efforts won’t stop there though. The next step is making sure Bourbon County and Fort Scott have all the resources potential community members could be looking for.
“It’s called placemaking.” Says Jones. “So we really concentrate on quality of life issues, we concentrate on infrastructure.” He continues. “We need to start focusing on what we can do.” “To make our community a great place to live, work, visit.”