Marion Council passes budget, no tax increase

After a seven-hour budget workshop last weekend, the Marion City Council at its July 20 meeting approved publication of its 2016 budget with no mill levy increase.

Roger Holter, city administrator, said the challenge was in keeping the overall mill levy flat, which equated to a $27,000 reduction in what was presented by the department heads.

?We will get the preliminary numbers from Marion County right now, and they set final valuation in November,? he said.

?The mill levy with all general funds, and including the debt service, is at 70.33 mills, which is based on the valuation provided maintaining.?

Although no mill levy increase was approved, the council did hear about some of the challenges regarding a water improvement project.

According to Holter, the city is over its bond limit of 30 percent of the property valuation for a community.

?At our current debt management schedules, we will not be back under that statutory limit until 2019,? he said. ?We should be no more than $3.067 million, and we are at $4 million right now.?

The council also heard about the city?s water improvement project which, under the current circumstances, would require long-term loans instead of general obligation bonds.

Darin Neufeld with EBH Engineering talked about cost estimates related to mains, valves and other project costs at $1.2 million.

Holter said the city is looking at a Community Development Block Grant, USDA grant and loan or KDHE state revolving fund in conjunction with CDBG, but that would be a loan.

?We won?t know (loan) numbers until attending the KIAC (Kansas Interagency Advisory Committee),? he said.

Neufeld said KIAC assists communities with a funding alternatives depending on the scope of a project.

?At the (KIAC) meeting,? he said, ?the committee looks at funding alternatives with a representative from KDHE, USDA and the Kansas Department of Commerce.?

?If we did get $1.1 million in grants, we would be looking at a 20-year note or about $2,270 a month as payment,? he said.

?That would equate to an individual home of about $3.27 on the water bill.?

In the case of a 40-year note, Holter said, the amount would be $1.75, assuming it was the full grant amount.

The other element to the water project would be the timelines.

?The city would not expend construction dollars until calendar year 2017,? Neufeld said. ?The day (USDA) makes the announcement for this grant, the city has 12 months to award contract.?

Mayor Todd Heitschmidt said that, according to the timeline, it would also appear the repayment wouldn?t start until early 2018.

Without raising the mill levy, the only other way to offset the water project would be through the utility side, Neufeld said.

Why talk about project?

Holter said the council needs to be aware of the options, because when he and Neufeld meet with representatives at KIAC and the city gets an award, it needs to be ready for some type of action.

?There are only two shots at any project, and if they turn us down or we turn them down on the first asking cycle, it could be a problem,? Holter said.

As an added advantage this time, Neufeld said the percentage of cities awarded will be higher, but it?s not something that can be counted on next year.

?USDA, right now, also has money available,? he said.

Councilor Chad Adkins said he believed if the city continues to prolong this project, more and more money will be spent fixing lines or other breaks.

Neufeld said the streets of Cedar, Roosevelt and Freeborn are the primary ones where most of the time is spent fixing problems.

Holter also spoke about the water rates historically.

?The city either held rates for extremely long periods of time and then took sizeable increases,? he said.

Heitschmidt asked Holter about how the city can hold the line on taxes and at the same time look at a water project, street projects, sewer work and other expenses.

?At some point,? he said, ?something has to give.?

Holter said the city could break the water project into more manageable pieces.

Heitschmidt said the problem with some taxpayers wanting to ?hold the line? on taxes is they need to think about their neighbor and what is being delivered to them.

?Maybe residents are OK?with where the water quality is at,? he said.

Holter said these are tough decisions in getting the city where it needs to be.

Parks and recreation job

The council approved advertising the parks and recreation position with a start date of Jan. 1.

Margo Yates, who is currently the secretary of Marion Chamber of Commerce and recreation director through USD 408, said she does have decisions to make.

?If I end up in this (parks and recreation) position, and depending on what the Chamber decides and what it will do, then I will have a few more questions about picking up this or that, if possible,? she said.

In addition, the city council is seeking people to serve on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board to provide direction on all recreational and leisure activities in the community, Holter said.

Requirements of position

The council reviewed information about the parks and recreation position.

The purpose of the new position, according to information provided, would be in delivering all recreation, leisure and sport programs, and activities to provide opportunities and encourage and promote a healthy lifestyle for all community residents.

Other responsibilities will include communicating with residents on determining their needs and interests, researching sport and recreation programs, accessing funding, preparing and funding proposals and more.

The position will also focus on experience, skills, financial accountability, physical requirements and other qualifications.

In other business, the council:

? learned the city received a community improvement grant for East Park from the Kansas Small Cities Community Development Block Grant program. The grant totaled $221,940, with the city contributing $24,660 in matching funds, or about 10 percent.

? heard a report from Jan Nolte of Swindoll, Janzen, Hawk & Loyd LLC. regarding the city?s audit for the year ending Dec. 31, 2014.

? approved the budget hearing for 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 3 for the purpose of answering questions posed by taxpayers related to funds or the amount of ad valorem tax. Holter said details of the budget are available at Marion City Hall and also at the hearing.

? discussed changing the speed limit to 20 mph throughout the city based on information from Police Chief Tyler Mermis about parents with young children concerned the speed limits in town are too high.

? received a report from Terry Jones, zoning administrator and economic development director, regarding changes in planning and zoning bylaws.