Council divided 2005 tax rate
After a spirited two-hour budget workshop meeting Monday night at Basehor City Hall, it appears that the council will not raise the mill levy for 2005.
Although the final budget has not been presented, much less voted on, it appears at this point the mill levy will hold constant at 28.639 mills. That probability divided members of the council and city staff for a good portion of the meeting Monday.
Members of the Council, Mayor Joseph Scherer and City Administrator David Fuqua mulled over two budget comparisons that City Treasurer Baron Powell provided. One outlined the impact of a mill levy set at 32 mills, an increase of nearly 4.5 mills, and the other showed no residential tax increase over the current levy.
The outlined plans with the mill levy increase were presented to give the Council an idea of how much money they could work if taxes were raised. Powell and Fuqua said the increase would go a long way towards preparing for meeting the growth that is expected to take place in Basehor over the course of the next five to 10 years.
"If we don't want to do the things cities do when they grow, then we don't have to raise the mill levy," Fuqua said.
Fuqua, along with Scherer, Powell and Council members Julian Espinoza and Keith Sifford appeared to be in favor of the levy increase. They said it would provide revenues to attract, maintain and deal with the growth when it comes rather than force the city to deal with it when it stares Basehor in the face or creates a shortage.
"This is not just about 2005," Scherer said. "What about the future, five, 10, 15 years from now."
However, Council member John Bonee was the most aggressive in terms of holding the line firm and not raising taxes.
He said that growth will create additional revenues through providing a larger tax base from which to draw funds and creating more sales tax returns.
"Staying ahead of the eight ball and planning for the future doesn't have to mean raising taxes," Bonee said.
"If we have to raise taxes that is out of line," he said.
The Council appeared to drop the notion of increasing taxes next year after it became evident that Bonee would not change his opinion and he had fellow Council member Iris Dysart leaning his way. The Council also seemed convinced that absent Council member William Hooker would have also been against a tax increase.
Thus, discussion was discontinued because the other members present felt the 4.5 mill tax hike would have ultimately failed 3-2 in an eventual vote.
The budget packet also stated it is projected that just over $2.2 million will be budgeted for the general fund. Powell's packet also clarified that a charter ordinance mandates that the city must use its share of county sales tax revenues for street, sidewalk, storm sewer construction and other capital improvements. Thus, a projected $148,000 will be directed to the consolidated highway fund or the capital improvement fund and not the general fund for the 2005 budget.
Despite the Council's apparent decision to forgo a mill levy increase, Powell expressed frustration over the decision and the future of the city.
"This is not out of line or extravagant," he said
Powell said a tax increase will be necessary to "provide essential services" in conjunction with the expected growth.
The Council, Powell said, will also need to deal with the possibility that the city's water treatment facility may reach capacity if 400 new homes are hooked up. Powell provided three potential solutions to the Council, one that raises taxes, one that raises sewer rates and one that raises the sewer connection fee.
The Council is expected to hold another budget workshop before voting on the matter.