Garden City drafts 2014 budget

7/6/2013

Public hearing set for July 16.

Public hearing set for July 16.

BY SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

Garden City's draft 2014 budget includes about a $202,300 increase in ad valorem taxes — a roughly 1.2 mill increase, which would raise the overall mill levy from 38.982 to 40.188.

City commissioners decided this week to publish the budget and schedule a July 16 public hearing, but may consider additional changes that could bring down the mill levy further.

At that time, the commission can make decisions that would either make no change or result in a net decrease to the published mill levy, but it cannot make changes that would increase the published mill levy.

"That doesn't mean you can't raise something and lower something, it just means the net impact to the published mill levy cannot go up," Matt Allen, city manager, said.

The draft budget includes about $84.78 million in expenditures with about $6.74 million proposed to come from property taxes.

After receiving valuation information from the county clerk, the city was looking at approximately $1.3 million in additional property taxes, or about a 7.2 mill increase, according to Allen. But city staff made additional changes to both expenditures and revenue to its published 1.2 mill increase to reduce the shortfall to $202,300.

The changes included adding an additional $657,788 in revenue this year for engineering and administration fees associated with the Schulman Crossing retail development. The city charges a 3 percent engineering fee, and a 2 percent administration fee on projects that have a temporary note and special assessment, Melinda Hitz, finance director, said.

"That is what we applied to the project at Schulman Crossing for the total cost of those projects," Hitz said.

Department heads also were asked to try to find places to cut expenses. Hitz said they came up with about $55,000 from 2013 budgets, and nearly $273,000 in the proposed 2014 budget.

Some of the cuts included reductions in the IT department for a voice-over Internet phone system; removal of a horse corral; animal control building; and cuts to some maintenance contracts in the police department budget, as well as moving an unmarked vehicle purchase from the general fund to a drug enforcement fund; removing a Dodge City route for the city's minibus; and cutting a proposed west green shelter from the Lee Richardson Zoo budget.

Though more than $1 million was shaved from the proposed budget, commissioners may cut even more on July 16. City staff has provided the commission with a list of additional cuts and revenue adjustments that could reduce the overall property tax by another $207,000.

"They would get you slightly below last year's levy. Very slightly," Hitz said.

The additional adjustments could come from projecting more sales tax collections and permit and license fees, as well as cutting a portion of the fund that provides money for the community grant and arts grant program; making a smaller increase to municipal pool funding; and eliminating a septic tank inspection service contract that could be handled in-house; and postponing a welcome sign project.

While it's not included in next year's proposed budget, Commissioner Melvin Dale believes future commercial and residential development on the city's east side is going to require the city to eventually budget for a third fire station and some type of police and EMS presence.

"I understand it's expensive to add a third station. I know we're short on money, but these are things we're going to be faced with in the near future," Dale said.

Dale said given that the state reduced the state sales tax this year, it might make sense to consider a half-cent city sales tax to help pay for police and fire protection expansion over the next five to 10 years.

Allen indicated the issue could be discussed in the capital improvement plan process this fall and winter, and during the commission's annual goal-setting retreat.

The public hearing for the 2014 budget is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. July 16, in the commission chamber at the city administrative center, 301 N. Eighth St.

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