Tensions Arise At Budget Hearing

A consensus over a flat mill levy didn’t mean the Manhattan city commission had an easy night during Tuesday night’s budget session.

Commissioner Wynn Butler argued over points on the budget concerning a large increase in the social service advisory board’s budget for 2014, and several other items within the previously published city budget.  Butler  was able to work with the other commissioners to  decrease items such as ATA’s on-demand budget from 5% to 1.7%,  and leverage those gains in the general fund into the road maintenance fund.

The commission voted to move the Manhattan Art Center and the Wolfhouse budgets under the umbrella of the economic development fund.  This move placed those budgets outside of the general fund, and used the gains in property taxes to increase the road infrastructure improvement funds.

City Finance Director Bernie Hayen warned commissioners that while they’ve kept the mill levy flat for 2014… it could lead to more trouble down the road.  Hayen says eventually these maneuvers are good for politics, but could be detrimental in the long run leading to more severe shocks in mill levy rates.

The mill levy is set at 43.439 for 2014.

In other news from the meeting the commission  voted to supersede a planning board decision by allowing a local site to rezone to allow investors to build a 12-plex on Thurston avenue.

Water, sewage, and stormwater rates are expected to be raised by 3% in November.  City officials say revenue from water rates within the city have fallen well below the previous year’s earnings.

In a meeting prior to the legislative meeting the commission informed city staff the proposed revisions to the city’s living memorial auditorium would be taken up sometime in September to allow for more debate on possible renovations.