Hillsboro Council must balance requests with revenue

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Hillsboro City Council members will try to fit slightly pudgier requests into ad valorem revenue that shrunk a bit from the previous year when members meet in a budget work session Thursday noon.


City Administrator Steven Garrett told the council at their July 18 meeting that projected property-tax revenue for the city won’t be as high as what was inaccurately forecast a year ago at budget-setting time.


Last year, the county’s projected property valuation for Hillsboro for figuring of the 2001 budget was in excess of $12 million, or a revenue value to the city of $12,000 per mill. The council used that figure to prepare the city budget.


Later, the city discovered the valuation was overestimated and a mill was actually valued at $11,760, a shortfall of around $17,000 on the ad valorem budget of $466,625.


“It’s not a significant amount, but every dollar counts,” Garrett said after the council meeting. “So we did have to tap into some reserve accounts.


“It created a situation where we had fewer dollars in the city’s general fund because other departments had a set mill levy-like the library, and recreation program,” he said. “To meet their dollar amount, we actually took it on the chin.”


For the 2002 budget, the city has fielded requests of $567,000 for the ad valorem portion of the budget. To fund all the requests would require a mill levy of 47.7 mills. Last year the mill levy was 37.68.


The purpose of the council’s work session is to balance budget requests with projected revenue.


Garrett said some requests will be trimmed, but he believes residents won’t notice any cutback of services.


“That’s the whole purpose here, to be able to trim without anything being noticeable to people who are getting services,” Garrett said. “I don’t think we can cut services.”


He said the city in general is at an awkward stage in its growth.


“We’re a geeky 13-year-old as communities go,” Garrett said. “We’re a little bit big for our britches, but we’re going to be more than able to fit into them if we just stay the course. It’s stay-the-course time. Someone just has to grit their teeth, and I think that’s my job.”


He said the council will take the lead in deciding whether to trim budget requests or raise property taxes to cover the difference.


“Because of the lack of an increase (in the city’s valuation), I don’t think it means a rise in the mill levy,” Garrett said. “At least, I wouldn’t anticipate a significant rise. But we do have to have funds to work with.”


Garrett said while the city’s projected valuation for the 2002 budget is lower than last year’s projection, it did “inch upward” from last year’s adjusted valuation.


Garrett said he doesn’t foresee a budget crisis this year, but he does feel the city’s lower valuation does reflect changing times.


“I think its a true reflection of the slowing of the local economy,” he said.


He thinks some of the disparity between requests and projected revenue can be solved by replacing tax dollars with fund transfers within the budget.


“What we have is a good budget,” he said. “We just have to figure out where (the revenue) is all going to come from.”


In other business, the council:


— accepted a bid from Country Club Bank in Kansas City for the sale of bonds to cover the costs of improvements at Willow Glen and Prairie Pointe housing developments in Hillsboro.


Country Club Bank bid an average interest rate of just over 4.91 percent over 15 years. A second bidder offered an average rate of just under 4.99 percent.


To have the quorum needed to approve the bid, the Councilor Leonard Coryea participated in the meeting via telephone from Minnesota, where he was vacationing. Councilor Mike Padgett was unavailable because of business commitments. Wendell Dirks and Matt Hiebert were present.


— heard from Garrett that a series of small-group meetings will be arranged in the near future with residents of the four-block area targeted for the city’s $270,000 rehabilitation grant.


Garrett said the requirements to receive the grant money is too complicated to try to explain in a large-group setting.


— heard from Garrett that he now has the necessary information to start the appeal process regarding Census 2000 results.

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