Archive for Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Council wants more information on library before approving 2012 budget

July 27, 2011

After two Monday meetings, the Tonganoxie City Council is near agreement on a “no-thrills” 2012 budget that raises the city’s mill levy a third of a mill and increases sewer rates but would like more information on the Tonganoxie Public Library’s budget request.

The no-thrills characterization was that of City Administrator Mike Yanez, who said the austere budget maintains current levels of service with just a few upgrades. Yanez, department heads and members of the Tonganoxie Public Library gave reports on their budgets and answered questions at a July 18 council work session on the budget which would increase the city’s mill levy by .334 of a mill to 37.436 mills.

“What you have here is an overall maintenance budget,” Yanez said. “We plan for the routine not the unusual.”

Concerns of stagnant growth and revenue continued to complicate city finances, Yanez wrote in a report shared with the council. That was unchanged from last year, but the administrator wrote there was good news — the city’s cash reserve is projected to be nearly $340,000 at the start of 2012. One year ago, it was projected to start 2011 with just $5,000, although it actually started this year with $140,000 through frugal management by department heads.

Further evidence of that frugality was recommended spending decreases for five of the nine departments receiving dollars from the property tax supported general fund, Yanez wrote. Overall, 2012 general fund spending would increase $31,507 to $2.119 million.

The Tonganoxie Public Library Board’s frugal 2011 budget was part of a “perfect storm” that led to its request to increase spending from $200,668 in 2011 to $212,000 in 2012 and also an increase in the library’s employee benefit budget from $31,852 to $37,301.

Library Board Treasurer Amanda Altenhofen said the library increased its budget $1 for 2011 in an attempt to be fiscally responsible and still meet requirements for state funding that it increase its budget only to have the state determine that increase was insufficient. In addition, the library didn’t get as much motor vehicle tax as anticipated, she said.

The library board is expected to name a new director this week. Altenhofen said preference was given to candidates with grant writing experience.

At the council’s meeting Monday, Councilman Chris Donnelly, who didn’t attend the July 18 meeting, noted the library’s request necessitated the increase to the city’s mill levy. He and other council members agreed to ask library representatives to attend their Aug. 8 meeting.

Councilman Dennis Bixby said the library was doing a good job but wondered if it could do more outside fundraising.

The only 2012 service level increases proposed in the budget were the adding of a second day each week for building inspector Mark Lee, who the city shares with the city of Basehor, and a raise in compensation for the city’s animal control officer from $550 a month to $1,000, which the council chose to make effective immediately.

Among those city departments spending less is the Tonganoxie Police Department. Police Chief Jeff Brandau said it would be a challenge to stay within the budgeted salary amount. The department was running 7 percent over budget for that expenditure this year, he said, as part-time officers and overtime were used to get officers on the street while new officers were participating in ride-along field training, which is part of a program the department started with the council’s blessing this year. Despite the added expense, the program was vital to the department for giving officers proper training and reducing the city’s liability, he said.

Brandau said the proposed 50-cent per hour increase in part-time officer pay to $14 an hour was meant to encourage part-time officers to work more hours so that overtime pay could be reduced.

Although the council considered adding $40,000 to the department’s request for salaries from a proposed $100,000 contingency fund, it was decided to stay with the proposed budget with the promise money would be made available for salaries if needed.

It was proposed part-time firefighters would get the same 50-cent per hour pay raise. Fire Chief Dave Bennett said he was also requesting $6,000 for a contracted medical director because of the department’s high number of medical calls and to conform with a state mandate.

Neither the police nor fire department budgeted for increased expenses should the council approve the proposed purchase of a new joint police department/auxiliary fire station, although Brandau conceded the 2012 amount budgeted for utilities at the downtown police station would be far from adequate. At Monday’s meeting, which included a presentation on funding options from Tom Kaleko of Springsted Incorporated, it was disclosed the city was now considering a second building for the stations.

City staff is now negotiating possible financing for the council’s consideration of the joint police/fire station, which is anticipated to reduce the consequences on the 2012 budget by requiring only interest payments until one the city’s current city bonds is retired in 2014. The city has $200,000 set aside for the expansion of the current fire station available for the project.

The new station was one of two possible capital improvement projects the council has on the table with the extension of limited utilities to the undeveloped 237-acre County Road 1 industrial park. BG Consultants is currently conducting a study, which will develop the cost of extending infrastructure to the park needed develop a single site.

Also, the council had a special meeting Tuesday to hear a presentation from Garnett Consulting on the results of a feasibility study of the industrial park.

Other than those two possible projects, capital projects were kept to a minimal level for 2012 because of the economy and the city’s reluctance to take on more debt, Yanez wrote.

As a step to build the sewer fund’s reserves, Yanez recommended the council approve a 5 percent rate increase on sewer use for the first 1,000 gallons only. That would raise the current $11.80 monthly charge to $12.39. The charge of $3.45 for each additional 1,000 gallons would remain unchanged.

In addition, Yanez recommended sewer connection fees be increased from $2,750 to $3,000.

The council will once again discuss the 2012 budget at its Aug. 8 meeting, at which it is slated to approve a budget for publication. There will be a public hearing on the budget Aug. 22 before the council takes final action.

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