Budget debate begins
There seems to be two camps among Basehor City Council members: those seeking to maintain the city's mill levy rate and those open to increasing taxes to generate more revenue.
On Monday night, in the first of four work sessions scheduled to discuss the city's 2005 budget, those two sides debated merits of their arguments. A final decision concerning the budget will not take place until August, when a final draft of the budget is due to Leavenworth County officials.
A preliminary draft of the 2005 budget, prepared by treasurer Baron Powell, calls for no tax increases and holds the city's mill levy at 28.639 mills for the third consecutive year. It is one of the lowest mill levies in the area.
However, Monday night, Powell submitted to City Council members a list of recommendations they should consider to increase cash flow into city coffers. The additional money would be used for funding long-term city projects, Powell said.
"Right now, the city is not generating sufficient revenue for the projects the city needs to do and in the timeline we need to do it," Powell said.
The recommendations are all increases in fees and they are:
¢ Raising the mill levy to 35 mills.
¢ Raising the franchise fee for businesses from 3 to 7 percent, the state average.
¢ Raising sewer connection fees from $1,600 to $2,100.
¢ Raising the city's 9 cents per square foot excise tax to 15 cents per square foot.
¢Raising business license fees to $50.
¢ Raising sewer rates a minimum of 2 percent each year.
¢ Raising delinquent and bad check fees from $15 to $30.
¢ Expedite annexation of Cedar Lakes residential development, located south of U.S. Highway 24/40, on 158th Street.
All sides agreed to some of Powell's recommendations. City officials said increasing fees for franchises, business licenses, bad checks and sewer connections could all happen for 2005.
City Council members John Bonee, Bill Hooker and Iris Dysart said they were not in favor of a substantial tax increase. All spoke of being more responsible with money that does come to the city and increasing revenues through new commercial and residential development.
"Nobody can afford to do everything we want to do," Bonee said.
"This is just a hammer just waiting to drop on (residents') heads," he added.
"Raising the mill levy?" Hooker said. "That's an absolute no with me."
Although Powell's early budget holds the line on taxes, it does not leave much room for the city to stockpile a surplus of money to help pay for street and sewer projects.
The treasurer reiterated Monday night the city can skate by without approving the items he recommends.
"If we did none of them except the annexations we could run the city," he said.
"Right now, the baseline will run this city at the level we're accustomed to."
City administrator David Fuqua said he has spoken with residents and civic groups about the possible tax increase. He's found that many would be against an "across the board" increase, but that some could be swayed if money garnered from an increase is earmarked for specific purposes.
"People get bothered when the government raises (taxes) and (the money) just disappears," Fuqua said.
Powell said money gained from his recommendations could be "set it in a specific fund where it will not be used for general purposes."
With a downtrodden economy and property valuations increasing every year, Bonee said many people are having a difficult time financially and don't need a city mandated tax increase adding to that burden.
"We're outpacing people's ability to pay," he said.