Hillsboro council expects to keep mill levy steady for 2003 budget year

Despite a decline in some revenue sources, the Hillsboro City Council will come close to meeting its objective of not raising the local mill levy for its 2003 budget year, according to preliminary figures reviewed at the July 16 meeting.

City Administrator Steven Garrett told council members the 2003 city budget will require a levy “just under 42 mills,” compared to a levy of 40.977 for the current year.

“The story is we’re in the right neighborhood and we should be able to meet our goal regarding the mill levy,” Garrett said.

The council will meet Thursday to review the final draft of the budget, which will likely include some cuts in the general fund. If council approves it, the budget will be published on or before Aug. 5, as required by state law. The council will hold a public hearing on the budget Aug. 13.

In another matter, the council agreed to Garrett’s recommendation that a proposal from an ad hoc citizens’ committee to develop a linear park along three blocks of abandoned railroad corridor in Hillsboro be passed on to the city Planning & Development Commission.

The proposal called for the city to invest $5,000, plus some equipment and worker hours, toward the project.

“Are we just avoiding controversy?” Councilor Len Coryea asked about Garrett’s proposal.

“Because this is a planning issue, this would be the proper place for it,” Garrett replied, adding: “This is not the place to have the ‘Rails to Trails’ debate.”

Asked if he had surveyed adjacent property owners about the project, as had been decided at the council’s previous meeting, Garrett said he had not begun that process.

Mayor Delores Dalke said land ownership issue is still a significant issue. Even if the courts have ruled that the Central Kansas Conservancy owns the right-of-way on the property, it is actually owned by the national railbank on behalf of the Union Pacific Railroad, which has the right to reclaim the land at any time if it wants to reopen the line.

“If you’ve built something on the property, they can run a track right through it,” she said.

At Garrett’s request, City Attorney Dan Baldwin updated the council on the city’s inquiry about using a letter of credit from Eldred Kunkel Associates to cover $28,500 owed for special assessments on property the California company owns in Hillsboro’s Willow Glen housing development.

“Since we have been here last, I have worked through the transfer department of Emprise Bank and drew a draft for the full amount due through Aug. 1,” Baldwin said.

He said this was the first time he had worked with a letter of credit. As he learned more what it entailed, he backed off asking for the full $119,000, as had been suggested at the council’s previous meeting.

“I think that’s worked out favorably,” Baldwin said, adding he had not yet received a response from the California bank holding the letter of credit.

Garrett reported Willow Glen developers Bruce and Sherry Kunkel, Hillsboro, were “somewhat concerned” that the discussion at the previous meeting had presented a false impression about Willow Glen’s financial situation.

“They’re wondering if it makes the development look less than healthy,” Garrett said. “Frankly, I’m not sure how we could have had that discussion without someone coming to that conclusion. If there was a better way of handling it, I’m not sure what it was. I think all of us were in unchartered waters.

“All we wanted was for the specials to be paid one way or the other-and I think (the Kunkels) were forthright in letting us know we could draw on the letter of credit,” Garrett said.

In other matters, the council:

n accepted a bid of $18,185 from Hillsboro Ford Mercury for a 2003 pickup truck for the city’s electrical department. Irv Schroeder County Motors and Wrights’ Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge, both from Hillsboro, also submitted bids for comparable vehicles.

n granted a cereal malt beverage license for JTJ, the corporate designation for Vogt’s IGA.

n approved a recommendation from Mayor Dalke that Lowell Goering and Shawn Edwards be reappointed to new terms on the Planning & Development Commission.

n raised municipal court costs to $40 for both traffic and ordinance violations; that represents an increase of $2 for traffic violations and $8 for ordinance violations.

n approved paying $54,036.83 to Barkley Construction for work done through Aug. 1 on the intersection of Grand and Washington streets and the alley running west of city hall.

n approved an engineering contract for adding lights at the city airport; such a contract is required to meet grant requirements. The Kansas Department of Transportation will provide $63,000 for the $70,000 project, and the city will provide the remaining $7,000. Engineering expenses were projected to be around $9,000.

n took no action after two executive sessions-one with Police Chief Dan Kinning regarding personnel, and the other regarding the acquisition of property

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