Hillsboro experienced a record-breaking sales tax numbers

Hillsboro experienced a record-breaking tax income with December’s sales tax, according to Hillsboro City Administrator Matt Stiles in the Hillsboro City Council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 4.

Stiles said they do not know the exact reasons for the month’s collections of $872,024.52, which was 23 percent higher than 2020 and 47 percent than the rolling five-year average.

“There could be any number of reasons. Car sales were high, and we also have new businesses doing well with The Building Center and bomgaars,” said Stiles.

Mayor Lou Thurston added, “And frankly all of our businesses do a really good job and work hard so it could be a combination of it all.”

Stiles gave a year-end report on what all the city has accomplished. He said one of the biggest challenges and accomplishments the city has was replacing a number of city employees who retired.

“The biggest story for the year from operations is the amount of staff turnover. There were eight retirements in 2021. Many had been here for a large number of years,” said Stiles. “In total, that represents 225 years of experience with the city that retired in 2021. In addition to the retirements, we had 10 other regular positions that turned over in 2021 and changed the city’s legal representation and prosecutor twice.”

Stiles said that 2021 was a year for change in Hillsboro and a year for positive growth in many areas, and he gave some highlights of the city’s growths and accomplishments. Some of the list included:

• Completion of the 2021-206 Strategic Plan

• TCW fiber to the premise project completed

• Two new businesses opened—bomgaars in June and The Building Center in September

• Community Plaza committee designed and ordered the spray park

• Successful return of the Arts and Crafts Fair from COVID-19

• Return of the Marion County Fair after cancellation from COVID-19

• Tabor named Dr. David Jansen its new president, and together, Tabor and the City of Hillsboro have been improving their relationship

• KDOT grant projects to expand US-56 at Industrial and installing the new walking trail were completed

• Marion County EMS opted to build a new building adjacent to the proposed Public Safety building to be completed in early 2022

• Work progressed on the community daycare. Additional work continues to happen, focusing on using Trinity Mennonite Church as a potential site

• Increased volunteer firefighters pay to $15 per run

• Approved new job descriptions and personnel policy changes.

• Began discussions about improvements to the lagoon system with EBH and Barkman Honey.

• Approved a conditional use permit for an AirBnB on Washington and A Street

• Adopted the KPERS 401A plan

• Reviewed the CDBG-CV performance, where the city distributed $132,000 to businesses affected by COVID-19

• Approved a proposal to move the city’s health insurance to Freedom Claims Management. The plan has slightly improved benefits and yields a $21,000 savings through November 2021.

• Approved more job descriptions.

• Passed Ordinance 1330 eliminating utility deposits and increasing reconnection fees

• Meet with Senior Class of 2021 and Senior Class of 2022 to review their class projects.

• Launched a revised website and the FrontDesk accounting program

• Made changes to the city’s credit card processor

• Approved the purchase of lagoon improvement equipment

• Implemented 2 percent COLA for 2020, delayed by the uncertainty in the budget

• Began discussing issues with water quality with the reservoir water

• Officially stopped fogging for mosquitos

• Passed an ordinance removing the limit on the number of firefighters allowed on the department

• Held a housing meeting to finish the housing assessment tool. Simultaneously began working with two potential developers on housing projects

• Passed Resolution 2021-07 allowing refunding of bonds, saving the city $32,670.47

• Increased wages for part-time police officers to $18 per hour

• Approved a new policy for housing incentives that waives many fees related to new homes

• Approve the creation of the Community Engagement Coordinator position

• Appointed Andrew Kovar as city attorney

• Selected Jessey Hiebert to be the new chief of police

• Appointed Joe Uhlman as city prosecutor, replacing Susan Robson, who took a judge appointment

• Approved an agreement with OurTown Development Initiatives for assistance with strategic plan projects

• Adopted new water rates for customers and for the City of Peabody related to the increased costs of treating issues related to blue-green algae and increased raw water costs

The complete list will be posted to the Free Press website for those desiring more information.

Thurston thanked Stiles and the council for all of their hard work and praised the accomplishments that have happened.

“Our strategic plan has three primary goals: childcare, housing and workforce. A lot of these things very much tie into that, so we need to just continue to keep that focus in front of us and continue to drive hard for it so the City of Hillsboro is as prepared for the future as we can possibly be,” said Thurston. “We’ve done a great job hiring the right people to fill the right positions. That is the key right there—the right people in the right jobs.”

In other business, the council:

n learned that the utility departments have an ongoing need for equipment. Stiles explained that regular replacement helps to avoid costly future repairs and keeps operations moving as efficiently as possible. “While the list of equipment needs is long, working as together the water, sewer and street department have narrowed down the priority lists, and we’ll plan on replacing equipment over multiple years.

For 2022, the utilities would propose selling the two current backhoes the city has and replacing them with a used excavator a new or lightly used rubber tire backhoe and a mini-excavator. The new equipment would expand the ability of the departments to do work in-house. In the case of the mini excavator, we would able to perform working much tighter right-of-way, being less disruptive for property owners,” said Stiles.

No action was taken, as the city will begin soliciting quotes for machines and provide the council with better information at future meetings. Stiles explained that equipment reserve funds do not have sufficient amounts to purchase the items outright, but there is capital outlay money in water distribution, sewer and streets that could be tapped. And new equipment lease-purchase contracts may be a better option. A funding plan will be presented with the equipment proposals to provide that detail later down the road.

n heard that the COVID-19 pandemic continues on with cases of the new variant spiking. Stiles did point out that first responders were able to receive vaccination starting in early 2021 and all staff had access to the vaccine by April 2021.

According to Stiles, cases and quarantines among staff have created some short-term shortages, but the city has been able to continue to operate. The city begin doing in-house screening in January 2021 and continues to provide tests as they become available. Supply chain issues really began affecting city operations in the middle of 2021 and continue now.

n heard from Stiles that he visited with Senator Jerry Moran during his visit to Hillsboro Community Hospital on Dec. 28.

“At the end of that meeting, I was speaking the senator and his Kansas liaison about the issues with blue-green algae in the Marion Reservoir. Senator Moran had helped the city many years ago when the blue-green algae first appeared in the reservoir, and he advised that they would be willing to help if possible with the issue again. I followed up with the senator’s aide, and we plan on meeting about the issue in January,” said Stiles.

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