Archive for Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Work on budget nearly complete

City tax rate to take a dive

July 12, 2006

When Tonganoxie residents take a look at their shaded-blue bills from the city, they will notice a change in fees starting Jan. 1.

For the 2007 budget, City Administrator Mike Yanez is proposing a $1 per month increase in sanitation services.

If the city council approves the fee hikes during its budget hearing next month, curbside fees would increase from $9 to $10, while houseside fees would move from $10 to $11.

Water and sewer rates, however, aren't scheduled to increase.

Monthly water rates are slated to remain at $6.36 for the first $1,000 gallons used and $4.07 for each additional 1,000 gallons used.

As for monthly sewer rates, residents would still be charged $11.80 for the first 1,000 gallons and $3.45 for each additional 1,000 gallons.

The proposed 2007 budget also is expected to carry a lower mill levy than the 2006 budget.

The proposed mill levy for 2007 is 32.532, compared to the 2006 rate of 33.615.

One mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 in assessed valuation.

At a city council work session last Wednesday, Yanez presented the city council with a mill levy of 33.502. But after additional work on the budget, assistant city administrator Kathy Bard said the mill levy dropped to 32.532.

Since 1999, the city's mill levy has ranged from 31.5 to 34.55.

"I like the idea our mill levy basically has been consistent for seven years," council member Steve Gumm said last Wednesday.

The public's turn

¢ The council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the 2007 fiscal budget and give its final approval Aug. 14.

But council member Velda Roberts said residents still could be paying more in taxes because their property's assessed valuations could be higher than their previous valuations.

"We're not increasing, but the individual is whammied by increased evaluation," Roberts said.

If, for instance, a person's home is appraised at a higher value this year, property owners could pay more taxes because of the higher property valuation.

Residents could pay more taxes because of increased valuation, but Gumm said that also means "their net worth is increasing by the value of their property."

Yanez estimated the city's assessed valuation for 2007 to be more than $32.5 million. The assessed valuation for 2006 was more than $28.6 million, while the valuation in 2005 was nearly $25.5 million.

The city's population has grown substantially in recent years -- 38 percent from 2000 to 2004, according to U.S. Census reports. That's a jump of more than 1,000 residents. Yanez, though, hopes to see more businesses come to Tonganoxie.

"I wish what we could see in this town is an increase in commercial," Yanez said. "I love to see sales tax. Sales tax makes everybody happy."

The general fund for 2007 would carry total expenses of $1,785,039, an increase of $191,523 from fiscal year 2006.

On Tuesday, Bard said a few factors played into the increase in expenses.

"A lot of it was utilities and fuel has gone up substantially," Bard said. "Cost of living's gone up quite a bit. Utilities and fuel went up even more than the cost of living."

And, the budget called for an increase in police and fire staffs, issues on which the work session also was focused.

The budget calls for another police officer to be hired in 2007. Earlier this year, the council gave police Chief Kenny Carpenter authority to hire a ninth officer with Lt./Deputy police Chief John Putthoff no longer on the force because of health issues. That ninth officer's position, though, has not been filled.

At Monday's council meeting, Carpenter requested that Sgt. Billy Adcox be promoted to Putthoff's position. Carpenter also requested that a new lieutenant/patrol supervisor position be created with Lt./shift supervisor Tony Hernandez moving to that position.

The council tabled the measure because a job description had not been created for the proposed new position.

Tonganoxie's police force currently has eight full-time officers with budgets allowing that two more officers be hired -- one in Putthoff's absence and another through the 2007 fiscal year budget.

As for the fire department, Roberts said that fire Chief Dave Bennett deserves a substantial pay increase for his many years with the department. Bennett has been with the department for 20 years, the last four as a paid employee. Roberts said Bennett's pay is significantly below other city department heads' salaries.

"I think it's time we bit the bullet and elevated him on experience," Roberts said.

Gumm said he didn't think it was the right time to bump up the salary.

Like the police department, the fire department is asking for an additional full-time position. The fire department currently has three paid positions, with the new position paying a proposed $13.76.

"We say at one point we can't pay anything and the next minute we're asking for a raise," Gumm said.

Yanez's 2007 budget proposes Bennett's salary at about $43,500. Other department head's proposed salaries are: Yanez, $67,912; Carpenter, $51,764; and Butch Rodgers, city superintendent, $53,065.

The council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the 2007 fiscal budget and give its final approval Aug. 14.

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