Proposed state funding cut not as bad as first feared

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The good news city council members heard during Jan. 7’s meeting was that the city of Hillsboro won’t take a budget hit of $135,000 if Gov. Bill Graves’ state spending cut is upheld in the courts.

The bad news was the city’s 2003 budget would stand to lose about $50,000 instead.

City Administrator Steven Garrett said additional information the city had gathered about the proposed cut had resulted in the adjusted impact.

“The picture is not so God-awful, but it is God-awful enough,” Garrett said.

The city will see a reduction of $24,818 when the state makes its payment for the second half of the current budget year that began July 1, 2002, and runs through June 30.

Barring changes, Garrett said the city would face the same reduction this fall when the state issues funding for the first half of its 2003-04 budget.

Last month, Hillsboro joined several dozen other cities in a lawsuit filed by the League of Kansas Municipalities to have the courts declare the governor’s action was unconstitutional.

The LKM suit contends that only the legislature has the authority enact budget cuts.

Garrett said the city would benefit financially if the court ruled in LKM’s favor, but that isn’t the primary concern.

“It’s important to determine who can do what (in regard to cutting the state budget),” he said. “If the governor can cut at a whim, it makes it almost impossible for us to create a reliable budget from year to year.”

Garrett said the governor’s action would directly affect city services and program, but other cuts in the state budget will have a “trickle-down” financial impact, too.

As an example, Garrett said that if, as has been speculated, Marion loses its state social services office in a statewide consolidation plan, local police departments can expect to make more domestic calls in the absence of local social services personnel.

Garrett said of the various state cuts, “It’s in our best interest to fight against anything that might affect our budget.”

Fireworks ordinance passed

In other matters, the council approved a revised draft of an ordinance that would allow for the sale and discharge of fireworks in the city limits to celebrate July 4 and the arrival of a new year.

The ordinance will become effective upon publication in the official newspaper.

The ordinance states fireworks may be sold in Hillsboro from June 20 through July 5. They may be discharged from July 1 through July 4 between the hours of 10 a.m. and 11 p.m., and from 10 a.m. on Dec. 31 until 1 a.m. on Jan. 1.

Tabor to regain property titles

Correcting an oversight that has lasted nearly 20 years, the council authorized the city attorney to initiate the appropriate legal documents for returning to Tabor College the title for some of the college’s campus properties.

In a letter to the council, Kirby Fadenrecht, Tabor’s vice president for business and finance, said the oversight was discovered in connection with tax assessments related to the county’s newly initiated trash-removal services.

Fadenrecht’s letter stated Tabor and the city entered into an arrangement for the issuance of industrial revenue bonds in 1969 for the construction of residence halls on the campus. A municipality’s involvement was a stipulation for issuing the bonds.

Fadenrecht said he believed the college deeded the property to the city and then leased the property back during the life of the bond issue. The bonds were paid off in the 1980s, but the step to request that the property be deeded back to the college “has been overlooked since that time.”

Waste guidelines

Garrett distributed a letter from David Brazil, who is the manager of the county’s newly acquired transfer station in Marion.

Garrett highlighted the letter’s notification that “construction and demolition” waste would be accepted at the transfer station as before, but would be charged by the ton, which would mean a higher rate than the standard disposal service fee.

Garrett highlighted the letter’s stipulation that when a little construction and demolition waste is mixed with other kinds of solid waste, the entire truckload will be charge by the ton.

Garrett said he felt this provision needed some clarification.

“If I have a few old ceiling tiles thrown in with other trash, is that construction and demolition waste?” he asked.

Council members agreed more clarification was needed, particularly with the approach of the city’s annual spring “Clean-up Days,” a time when residents are more likely to get rid of that kind of waste or begin home remodeling projects.

City Attorney Dan Baldwin noted that the city of Marion is asking similar questions.

Councilor Matt Hiebert said the city should alert local contractors, who may want to separate their construction and demolition waste from other kinds as a cost-saving measure.

Other business

In other matters, the council:

approved making the final payment to Flaming Metals System for the city’s new electrical shop. The city had been withholding final payment because of questions about the way a wind brace was incorporated into the building.

Garrett said information he received from Butler Manufacturing Co. and from Martin Rhodes, the city’s own building inspector, convinced him the method Flaming Metals used was standard procedure in the industry.

reviewed a report of city projects begun by the city in 2002. Among other things, the report indicated the projects that were completed in 2002 cost the city less than originally proposed.

heard from Baldwin that the city had completed its obligation in regard to the drainage project in the industrial park, and that the project was “ready to go” when the other parties involved were prepared to move ahead.

met in executive session at the request of Councilor Byron McCarty to discuss a personnel issue.

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