The Manhattan City Commission met for its first, 2015 Budget work session Tuesday.
In the proposal, the total 2015 City Budget would increase from roughly $130 million last year to $135 million this year (3%).
With that, City Staff recommends a 2.65 Mill Levy increase, but the Commission wasn’t very fond of that number.
“Too high,” said Commissioner, John Matta. “Yeah I’d say we still have a ways to go,” added Commissioner, Rich Jankovich.
The City’s Capital Improvement Program is partially responsible for increasing the Mill Levy and Mayor Wynn Butler summarized the Commission’s discussion on how to lessen the impact on property taxes in as much as possible in 2015.
“Number one we want to take those that apply (CIP items) to the Parks and Rec and make certain that those get integrated in with the consultant’s business. Then secondly, maybe break out everything that can possibly be funded by a grant separately, and then take those that are left and say okay these have Mill Levy Property Tax input and then maybe list them 1 through maybe whatever,” Butler said.
That being said, City management has slashed more than $700-thousand dollars from the 2015 proposed CIP.
But, when Commissioner Karen McCulloh reviewed the numbers Tuesday, she expressed her concern to City Manager, Ron Fehr that too many items were being pushed into 2016’s CIP.
“I know that we can’t buy everything this year, but won’t we be more or less in the same shape next year?” McCulloh said.
“The $700 thousand in cuts was to delay, some was to reassess some of those aspects, but I’m sure we’ll go through the same exercise next year,” Fehr responded.
Director of Finance, Bernie Hayen said that the CIP is impacted by sluggish sales tax numbers.
“We aren’t making the kind of increases that would suggest that we can count on sales taxes to make-up for whatever general fund increase is on the horizon, and there obviously is one.”
The proposed 2015 General Fund CIP is $354,418.
The roads in Manhattan need attention, but the City is struggling to keep up with maintenance costs.
Assistant Director of Finance, Hillary Badger said one of the ways to remedy the issue could be to put a five-hundredths-of-a-cent (.05) sales tax increase in front of voters in November.
“We’d experience about nine months in 2015 of that revenue source,” Badger said. “But it would be in addition to the $1.2 million that we already have in infrastructure maintenance budget for 2015.”
While not typically in favor raising taxes, Commissioner John Matta said that asking the users to consider paying for the upkeep, just makes sense.
“We built this as a destination shopping area to bring people in. They’re driving our roads and adding to our congestion and adding to our road repair,” Matta said. “Also, we’ve got a lot of construction that’s gonna go on over the next few years. All those people are gonna be coming in, building NBAF and everything else that are gonna take its toll on our roads. And again, they will be spending money in town and paying sales taxes, so I’d like to collect some of the money that way.”
The other Commissioners were generally in favor of putting a tax proposal in front of voters in November.
The important thing to remember is that the 2015 budget is not set in-stone. The Commission and City staff will meet several more times in the coming months before a final budget is outlined and approved. If you have a question or concern, then make your voice heard during the next work session. And as always, stay tuned to 1350 KMAN to receive the latest updates.
The next work session is on June 10th and will cover the 2015 City Budget and Utility Rate Increases.