Council approves ‘06 city budget
Plan includes transfer of Lansing Historical Museum to city
Lansing residents can look forward to increased hours at the Lansing Historical Museum, added police protection and a lower city mill levy after the City Council approved the 2006 city budget.
The $8.25 million spending blueprint was approved Thursday on a 5-2 vote with Council members Billy Blackwell and Harland Russell opposed. Council member Dee Hininger was absent.
"The money has been laid out frugally, we've been pinching pennies and we're moving forward," Council member Don Studnicka said in voicing his approval for the budget, which was proposed by City Administrator Mike Smith and his department heads.
The property tax levy required to fund the budget for next year is 35.063 mills, down from the current 36.010 mills. A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 of assessed property valuation.
The owner of a home valued at $100,000 will pay property taxes of $403.23 to fund the 2006 city budget, compared to the $414.12 required on a $100,000 residential property a year ago.
The value of assessed property in the city rose $7 million to $59.3 million, an 11 percent jump over the valuation used in calculating the 2005 city budget. Some of the increased valuation came from the annexation of 1,200 acres into the city late last year. In addition, the value on residential property in Leavenworth County increased in 2005 by an average of 10.1 percent compared with 2004.
Russell cited issues related to the annexation as part of his reason for opposing the budget.
"I'm very concerned : about the recent annexation and our ability to provide adequate levels of services for streets and roadways," he said.
He noted that prior to the annexation, the city spent about $7,300 per year, per lane mile for street maintenance. The annexed area adds another 25 miles of streets to the city, and the per-mile budget for street work is dropping by nearly 30 percent, to about $5,200.
"I have a big issue with that," Russell said. "We must be able to stay ahead of the curve on our infrastructure, and this budget does not prepare for that."
Both he and Blackwell raised objections about budget outlays to purchase vans for the Economic Development department and Community Library, and the city's takeover at this time of the historical museum, which includes the hiring of a full-time museum supervisor.
"We're a business," Blackwell said. "The city is a business, and if we don't look as a business at what we're gong to get toward our return on investment, we're going down the wrong path - and that's any venture we go into."
Council member Andi Pawlowski reminded her colleagues and audience members the city wasn't a business.
"The city is for the benefit of its residents. You have to remember that a lot of the things we do, we don't get a return on. There are benefits that people pay for that they expect their city to provide," Pawlowski said.
Council member Robert Ulin said he studied the budget careful and had concerns about it. "But at the end of the day, I'm squarely for the budget."
Mayor Kenneth Bernard answered critics who said the budget contained too many "wants" vs. the city's "needs."
"I will tell you that the first submission of the budget by all in the city is what they want. After the first meeting, it's down to what they need. After the second meeting, it's who needs it worse," Bernard said.
One significant element of the budget was a salary adjustment for city employees based on a reworking of job descriptions. Smith said the cost-of-living salary adjustment would be 3 percent in 2006, but some employees would be eligible for pay raises of 5 percent to 7 percent based because of the new job descriptions.
"All the stuff in the budget for the city employees, I hope that we can continue with that," Council member Dave Trinkle Jr. said, noting the salary increases should help Lansing avoid employee turnover that is plaguing other similar-sized municipalities.
The employee package also received the blessings of Blackwell and Russell.
"I applaud that effort, and I think that's necessary. : I think it's important for us to take care of our employees because you are our assets; you are what makes the city run. Anything that we can do to keep you here, to keep the turnover down, I'm all for," Blackwell said.
The total city budget for 2006 is $8,249,623, up from $7,768,023 this year.
The projected levy is 35.063 mills, down from 36.010 a year ago.
The budget includes a new parks and recreation employee, one additional police officer, a full-time library assistant, a site supervisor for the Lansing Historical Museum, and an additional wastewater operator.
Eight vehicles will be added to the city fleet: Five new police cars; vans for the library and Economic Development department; and a pickup truck for the Community Development department.
The city will take over the Lansing Historical Museum as officials work toward a goal of opening a Regional Prisons Museum.