Hillsboro council facing mill-levy challenge for 2010 budget

The city of Hillsboro is publishing a budget summary for 2010 that includes a 15-mill increase in the property-tax levy.

But local taxpayers shouldn?t be alarmed, City Administrator Larry Paine told the city council at its July 15 meeting. By the time the council votes to approve the budget, the mill levy will be ?at or near? the same level it has been for the past several years.

Paine said he was publishing a budget showing a 15-mill increase to meet the state?s deadline for publication. He said a city can lower its mill levy after it is published but cannot increase it.

Paine said the levy in the final version of the budget likely will be ?43 to 44 mills.? The levy in 2009 was 40.134.

By Tuesday?s meeting, Paine said he was still nearly $60,000 short of achieving a mill levy equal to 2009. He called for a work session at 4 p.m. Tuesday, July 28, to involve the council in making final adjustments.

?I?ve gone about as far as I can go with it,? Paine said.

Getting to within $60,000 did not come without hard choices. Paine said his goal was to save enough money in other areas to avoid staff layoffs. Toward that end, he said the 2010 budget does not include a pay increase for city workers.

Paine also alerted the council that he had tapped about $400,000 in ?one-time? cash revenue from within the city?s operation?meaning, that money will not be available to help balance the following year?s budget.

?The outlook for 2011 is grim without cutting back general-fund services,? he stated in a memo to council members.

The budget summary for publication projects expenditures for 2010 totaling just under $8.514 million, which is $540,000 less than the expenditures estimated for 2009.

Almost all of the projected 15-mill increase is reflected in the city?s general fund, which shows an increase from 29.244 mills in 2009 to 43.172 for 2010.

In his memo, Paine said, ?The primary difference in the 2009 and 2010 budget is totally related to beginning cash balances.?

According to the 2008 annual audit, the city?s ending cash balance showed a loss of $202,469 from 2007 to 2008.

?Once the 2010 budget is balanced, the cash balance rises to $76,200,? Paine reported.

A public hearing on the 2010 budget proposal is planned for 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4, at city hall. Questions and comments would be welcomed.

Substance-abuse policy

The council approved a substance-abuse policy for city employees by a 3-0 vote. Coun?cilor Byron McCarty was not present at the meeting.

Paine was quick to say that having a policy on file is a proactive measure, not an indication that the city staff has a problem with substance abuse.

?In my view, we don?t have a problem, based on what I?ve seen,? he said.

Paine said the policy is important in the event of a vehicle accident involving a city employee. By requiring mandatory testing, it can be proven if substance-abuse was a factor in the mishap. If the test proves it wasn?t, it prevents the other party from making false charges.

The policy would also be useful if an employee has a work-related accident that requires medical treatment.

Among other things, the policy calls for mandatory testing when someone applies for a job with the city. Once hired, an employee can be asked to submit to a test ?based on a reasonable suspicion that their ability to perform safely or effectively may be impaired.?

Violations of the new policy, including refusal to submit to a test, ?will result in a disciplinary action, up to and including termination.?

On that point, Paine said he intended to lean more toward mercy than justice in most situations.

?I think we?d want to give an employee another chance to do well,? he said.

Other business

In other business, the council:

n accepted a low bid of $4,531 from APAC Kansas to chip-seal designated streets before cold weather arrives. The project also will require about $800 worth of rock.

Targeted streets include the following: the asphalt portions of Floral and Elm, from B to Grand; Juniper, from Ash east to the dead end; Willow, from Juniper to Ash; D Street, from city limit to city limit; Memorial Drive, south from D including the park loop.

Street Superintendent Dale Dalke said he has been in conversation with the county about coordinating efforts in regard to its plan to chip-seal 190th between Hillsboro and Marion, and Indigo Road from the Hills?boro city limits south to the county line.

n discussed the routine review of contracts with area farmers who rent city-owned till-able ground. For budgeting reasons, council members agreed the city should pursue ?cash-rent? contracts based on a per-acre rate as opposed to a ?cost-share? arrangement where the city and renter share expenses and revenue on a proportional basis.

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