City budget receives feedback
Does the budget really need to increase this much?
That's what a couple of Baldwin City residents wanted to know at the public hearing for the city's 2001 budget last Tuesday. The meeting was held after The Signal went to press last week.
The answer from city officials: Probably.
The budget as presented, although balanced, was not a finished product. City Administrator Larry Paine put on the table a $7.8 million budget supported by 40.5 mills. A mill is $1 in property taxes for every $1,000 in assessed valuation.
The $7.1 million 2000 budget is supported by 35.051 mills.
During the budget planning process the budget has bounced between $5.8 million and $8.8 million. Mayor Stan Krysztof told the concerned citizens that the budget might yet undergo some trimming.
"We feel like we are not in a position to approve the budget you have in front of you," Krysztof said. "We will do cutting, but I don't know how much."
This week, Paine said he found a discrepancy in the budget that results in a $58,000 deficit. That deficit can either be taken care of in the 2002 budget, or he can include it in the 2001 budget which would require another public hearing.
Doris Scraper and Ernie Johnson expressed concern about the budget's increase. Scraper noted that the city would be receiving about 15 percent more property taxes from the increased valuation.
The valuation of property within Baldwin City increased from $13.9 million last year to $15.5 million for the 2001 budget.
"That's a 15 percent increase in income with the mill levy staying the way it is," Scraper said. "I'd like to see if you can keep (the mill levy) where it is. Some of us old folks are taxed out. We are at the point that we are paying more in taxes than we did for a house payment."
Albert Johnston, also a Baldwin City resident, agreed.
"I'd like to second freezing the mill levy where it is now," Johnston said.
Johnston expressed his displeasure of the widening of U.S. Highway 56, of which the city is paying $870,000 in the 2001 budget. The project originally was included in the 2000 budget, but was pushed into the 2001 budget instead. It will be paid for through a bond.
"The highway 56 construction project is a fiasco for anyone who lives within a block," Johnson said. "Their yards and driveways are destroyed and what you have is a creek instead of a highway. The old highway would have sufficed better for water management."
Other construction projects funded through bonds in the 2001 budget include: reconstruction of Sixth Street, electric infrastructure upgrades, replacement of the city's water line running under the Baker Wetlands, and improvements to a water pump station north of town.
About $250,000 of the increase to the budget can be attributed to salary increases $95,000 of which is in the police department and includes an additional officer so that an officer is on duty around the clock.
"The employees are getting their pay raised to industry standard," Krysztof said. "There is a lot of money right there. Every one of our employees is getting a raise."
The budget, when finalized, will be presented to the City Council for approval at a later date.