City Continues to Weigh Sales Tax Initiative in November

The Manhattan City Commission awarded a contract for the construction of a 1 million-gallon elevated water tower that will provide water to the US 24 Corridor/Blue Township area.

The roughly $1.7 million contract was awarded to Phoenix Fabricators and Erectors of Avon, Indiana.

The project stems from Interim and Inter-local Agreements between the City of Manhattan and Pottawatomie County Rural Water District No. 1.

The RWD will be solely responsible for all costs associated with the water storage tank and all associated engineering services.

Also Tuesday, the Commission authorized a construction administration contract with Bartlett and West, for an amount not to exceed $450 thousand. Manhattan’s share of the contract is $140,000.

Road Maintenance Projects

The Commission awarded 2 contracts Tuesday for concrete and asphalt road maintenance projects.

The first contract was awarded to Bayer Construction for a two-part concrete street maintenance project in the Northview Area and Anneberg Park. The total cost for both portions of the project is just shy of $370 thousand.

The second contract was awarded to to Shilling Construction for asphalt repairs on Scenic Drive from the Anderson Avenue intersection towards K-18.

The total cost is roughly $565 thousand and will be financed though the Special Street and Highway Fund.

Sales Tax Increase?

The Commission continued its discussion Tuesday regarding future funding for road maintenance.

Due to diminishing returns from the $1 million Manhattan currently spends on road repairs, coupled with evaporating Gas Tax revenues, the City is faced with the possibility of asking the public to vote on a sales tax increase this November.

“We just don’t have a lot of other options other than bumping up property tax and I think that’s an even more difficult one to try and manage,” said Commissioner, Rich Jankovich “Unless we find other funding mechanisms, I think that’s where we go.”

Commissioner, Usha Reddi however, doesn’t think the City has any other option.

“If we don’t do it now, we probably will end up doing it at some point in the future,” Reddi said. “There’s more cuts coming from all over the place. Sales tax is the bulk of our General Fund and I think we need to take care of that right now; And If we don’t take those baby steps to maintain it, we’ll end up paying more in the long run.”

On the other hand, Commissioner, John Matta says if the City establishes its priorities in the 2015 budget, then a sales tax increase is unnecessary.

“Streets is what people expect us to do within our city budget. We passed a sales tax here recently for infrastructure and brought in money that way, and to now put another out there. Instead of setting priorities, we just go out and raise taxes again,” Matta said. “Frankly I didn’t run for City Commission to figure out ballot initiatives to go raise taxes.”

Mayor, Wynn Butler says he doesn’t want to the see the roads fall in disrepair, but adds that Commissioner Matta is right on the money.

“First step, let’s take a look at what we’re spending our money on” Butler said. “Because essentially what we’re saying is, with a $135 million city budget, that everything else is more important than roads if we don’t make this the priority. I think that’s what John is pointing at there, and I tend to agree with that.”

Mayor Butler and Commissioners Jankovich and Matta all said they’d like to wait on making a final decision on a ballot initiative until after the 2015 Budget is completed.