The Marion City Council spent a majority of its June 6 meeting time discussing the 2017 budget.
City Administrator Roger Holter said the city’s debt service is $5.2 million.
Prior to adopting the five-person council in 2007, the city commission’s debt service was at $2 million. Over the next nine years, the debt service jumped to $5.4 million, Holter said.
“The difference before 2007 was that the three-person commission had a mayor, finance and public works commissioner,” he said. “When it went to five councilors at-large, the debt in very rapid succession did infrastructure improvements and bonded a lot of large projects,” he said.
“It’s not easy to manage that debt through multiple leadership organizations,” Holter added. “Because those seated on our council four years ago have determined the actions on the behalf of the current seated council.”
An example, Holter said, is Marion’s debt service in 2016 was $509,000, which was the payment on $5.4 million. The projection on property taxes for this year is $535,000.
“Everything coming in on property taxes has to go out just to cover previous debt,” he said.
Other money that contributes to the overall city budget of $5.2 million includes revenue from personal vehicle property taxes, grants the city may get, gasoline and liquor taxes from the state.
In addition, the city has fees for services: dog tags, VIN or vehicle identification numbers, utilities fees and other fees that feed the general fund.
Holter said Marion’s largest revenue stream is from the electrical department. But the city also pays for the power that it purchases for resale.
“The city is always working with KPP (Kansas Power Pool), to make sure we are leveraging as much (electric power) as we can,” he said.
The city’s budget used to be as high as $7.3 million, but in recent years, the council and city departments have trimmed expenses, Holter said.
“Utilities last year were $515,000 below budgeted amount, which means our citizens saved $515,000 from what was projected,” he said.
“It also meant that household budgets didn’t take quite the hit. In order to accomplish that we went from spending $3.2 million to…kicking it down to under $2.7 million.”
The council discussed its neighborhood revitalization program and how it ties in with the county.
“Earlier this year,” Holter said, “(the county) indicated eliminating their program, but we have seen no formal action on that.”
The council discussed all properties using the city’s program and those with pending applications.
“The council agreed that during the budget workshops (beginning June 27) to change some of the qualifications or possibly suspending the program because we do have housing assessment tool being completed by volunteers.”
However, the council may need to come up with incentive program to help with improvements, he said.
“We have identified 31 homes in need of paint and another 30 (houses) needing assistance with roofing repairs and another 10 (homes) with porch repairs needed,” Holter said.
“How can we as a community support one another?” Holter asked. “Not only by maintaining their own property value, but maybe improving property values on homes that exist and aesthetically tying in with the total vision of what the city is wanting to do.”
One idea that has only been in preliminary discussions would be similar to the sidewalk replacement program, Holter said.
That program provides a $500 maximum reimbursement for concrete, he said, but the property owner is responsible for labor and removing the old concrete.
Instead of concrete, though, it might be a homeowner needing to replace a roof, he said.
The city could reimburse a property owner for roofing materials up to a defined amount allowing homeowners the incentive to get materials and do the work.
Holter asked the council to identify projects it would like to include in the 2017 budget.
Holter said the council has formally committed to the Transportation Alternative grant of $235,000, which is the city’s portion in 2017 for the street improvements from First to Fifth streets.
“We now have about $240,000 in our special highway funds, which is unencumbered cash,” Holter said. “We also anticipate receiving $49,000 from gasoline tax that would be available.”
Holter said it’s been a long-term project since the 2014 budget cycle when it was discussed.
Holter said the council worked toward enough cash reserves to cover KLINK expense and $75,000 revitalization portion of that grant.
It’s not 100 percent covered with special highway funds, but no additional money for bonding will be needed to complete those projects.
“The staff sees this as a huge win, over issuing additional indebtedness,” Holter said.
For the past two years, debt service has been the largest single line item in the budget, he added.
Chris Costello, one of the newest council members, said he was surprised that the city’s debt is that big.
The following departments requested additional money for upgrades, improvements or operations. The requests will be discussed at budget sessions.
• Police Chief Tyler Mermis is looking at a communications upgrade, which was brought forward with Sheriff Robert Craft. Randy Frank, the county’s emergency management director, is working on possible grants to help cover that.
• The city’s museum board announced it hired Peggy Blackman as their new director. “The board verbally requested an increase in funds for additional staffing, “ he said. “However, to this point, the board has not shared a specific amount with us.”
• The Marion Library board requested an increase in funding, but again no specific details, he said. Holter said by charter ordinance, the city has limited the funding for the library to 8 mills.
• The city received a request last year from the WRAPS organization for monitoring at the Marion Reservoir of $5,000.
“They were unsuccessful securing that grant last year, and have re-issued the grant application,” Holter said.
• This is the year for the city’s 10-year cycle for the trash truck replacement. Holter said money was allocated in equipment reserve the past two years to purchase a used tandem axle dump truck with snow plow.
• The Marion Municipal Airport board is wanting to move forward with a grant on the tarmac extensions with the possibility of additional hangars, Holter said.
He added that one option to discuss would be fund expansion through partnerships rather then using public dollars.
• Holter said the city is looking longterm at water resources on a county wide basis. The city would be looking at allocating about $15,000 toward a cooperative preliminary engineering report between the county and other participating municipalities. This would still require engineering, design and feasibility, to make sure it’s sustainable.