Archive for Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Council working to avoid tax hike

July 11, 2007

Basehor City Council and city staff are working on final adjustments to the 2008 city budget, trying to avoid a mill levy increase.

The council spent Monday evening going over changes to each section of the proposed budget with City Administrator Carl Slaugh. Some goals for the budget are to keep the levy near 28.5 mills, adopt a pay plan for city employees and figure out wastewater plant funding.

The city's projected 2008 revenue of $4.91 million anticipates increased sales tax revenue, which was up 15 percent from 2005 to 2006, and an 11 percent increase in property valuation.

There still is about a $16,000 difference in expenditures and revenue that needs to be balanced out to avoid a mill levy increase.

"In general our revenue projections are fairly conservative," Slaugh said. "We didn't increase them much from what we had last year. The actual should be above what our projected budget is. If anything, we should have an excess at the end of the year, which is good."

The proposed budget includes a 5 percent increase for city employee salaries -- 2 percent for cost of living and 3 percent for merit. The 5 percent increase will add $50,000.

An additional 5 percent needs to be added to bring salary ranges up to par, Slaugh said, but has not yet been added.

"I want to include extra money to propose a fix for our salaries and bring them a little closer to parity with the surrounding cities we compete with," Slaugh said. "I'm still trying to figure out what kind of reserve we might have to put into that category."

Council members suggested contributing additional funds to a few public relations items in the administration budget, including Basehor Dairy Days and Basehor PRIDE fireworks.

While the city budgeted $1,000 for Dairy Days, city clerk Mary Ann Mogle, who also served on the Dairy Days committee, noted that the event cost about $10,000 this year and funds were hard to raise.

Slaugh also said it was the largest event the city sponsors and additional funding would likely be appreciated.

Council president Terry Thomas suggested upping the city's contribution to the annual Independence Day fireworks display sponsored by Basehor PRIDE from the budgeted $2,000 to $3,500.

"We're getting $500 for every stand up there," Thomas said. "I don't see any reason why we can't fund more for the fireworks."

Slaugh said an expected $4 million will need to be budgeted for wastewater treatment plant improvements, but that will not be finalized until the city hears back from the state about proposed more stringent wastewater standards. Another $400,000 is budgeted for sewer line rehabilitation to correct the city's costly inflow and infiltration or I/I problem.

While engineers from Burns and McDonnell, the firm chosen to design the plant expansion, said $400,000 would not be enough, Slaugh said that amount is only for one year and it will at least give the city a start on correcting the problem.

The city is still trying to figure out how to build up revenue to finance the wastewater treatment plant project without raising user rates, Slaugh said.

"If we don't have a reserve at the start, we will have to take from the general fund and possibly raise the mill levy to pay for it," he said.

The council also had a discussion on technology upgrades. Slaugh said the city was running out of space on its server and was considering purchasing additional hard drives to compensate. Council members Jim Washington and Terry Hill asked whether a more cost-effective route would be to look at updating the system as a whole rather than piece by piece. Washington suggested conducting a technology survey or audit to get suggestions on what the city needed to do to bring its computer system up to date.

"Very frankly what I see here is, you could very easily walk into this place one day and it would be out of business," Washington said. "I have no problem spending up to $20,000 next year to get this thing right. The risk of this is just enormous."

Discussions will continue at the work session prior to the regular council meeting at 6 p.m. Monday. The council will also set a public hearing date for the 2008 budget at that meeting.

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