Archive for Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tonganoxie City Council opts for 5 mill increase

July 13, 2010

sources steady or declining, property taxes will be asked to support a greater share of the general fund.

Given six days to mull the department heads’ statements, the council agreed Monday to go beyond the 3.518 mill levy increase City Administrator Mike Yanez recommended and raise the 2011 mill levy 5 mills from its 2010 level to 40.02 mills. The extra 1.5 mills the council supported would provide about $54,000 more to the city administrator’s proposed $1.942 million 2011 general fund budget.

A mill equals $1 of city revenue for each $1,000 of assessed valuation. At 40.02 mills, the taxes owed on $100,000 of assessed valuation on a residential home would be $460.

Councilman Burdel Welsh said the 5 mill increase was essentially Yanez’s recommendation for 2011, plus the increase proposed for this year before the council agreed not to raise the 2010 mill levy in the “eleventh-and-a-half hour.”

When resident Bill Peak suggested the public would be skeptical the money wouldn’t be swallowed up in operating expenses, it was agreed the extra $54,000 would be placed in a contingency fund for emergencies.

Money from the fund was only spent with the authorization of the council, Yanez said.

Despite the consensus to raise the mill levy, there was disagreement on the council about some of the budget’s details. Councilwoman Paula Crook said she was opposed to the 2.5 percent merit and longevity raises recommended in the budget.

“I’m not for giving any raises when the mill levy is going up,” she said.

It was a position resident Patty Bitler endorsed at the July 7 budget work session. Her salary was cut 10 percent and she was working with reduced benefits, she said.

“You’re saying city employees’ pay is more valuable than mine,” she said.

The majority of the council, however, supported Welsh’s view that the city shouldn’t ask employees to solve its budget problems.

Yanez said he recommended the merit increase because the city would not provide further assistance for rising employee health care cost, meaning city employees would have to make up the added cost.

Council members Tom Putthoff and Jim Truesdell said they wanted to maintain the effort of recent years to restructure the city’s pay scale, which had fallen behind those of nearby cities. Without that continued effort, they and other council members said, the city would continue to lose firefighters and police officers after paying for their training.

Once again, however, the council decided Monday to alter Yanez’s budget recommendation. It was agreed to give employees a 2.5-percent cost of living increase instead of a 2.5-percent merit pay increase. The change will cost the city a bit more because some employees at their maximum pay grades would not get merit raises.

The council was criticized at the work session for past decisions. Resident Bill Peak said he warmed the council about projects that would force the city to enter 2011 without a reserve.

Bitler questioned the agreement with Leavenworth County to help pay for improvements to County Road 1 and the purchase of 300 acres for the new industrial park.

Commissioners Crook and Truesdell also question what value the city was receiving from its contribution to CR1.

The interlocal agreement the city and county approved in May would require the city to make 10 annual payments of $100,000 and a final payment of $500,000 should the county meet its obligations.

The county’s response to CR1 issues has been frustrating, said Councilman Jason Ward, who was on the city’s team that negotiated the agreement. But he said the recently signed agreement committed the county to help pay for a land-use study of the CR1 corridor by 2014.

In the end, the 2011 payment was left in the budget.

The council will meet again to consider a budget for publication at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the council chamber. July 26, the council will approve publication of the proposed budget. There will be a public hearing Aug. 9 before the budget is formally adopted.

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