Archive for Wednesday, July 25, 2001

City budget jumps, but mill levy doesn’t

July 25, 2001

Baldwin City residents can expect to see some changes in the 2002 budget.

Currently, the 2002 budget is set at $21,659,722, up from this year's budget of $7,870,078.

City administrator Larry Paine said much of that increase is due to an increase in the capital improvement budget.

"A quite a bit of that increase is based on soft budgeting," Paine said. "We don't know if these projects will come about, but we have to have these things in the budget to proceed properly if we go in that direction."

Included in the capital improvements budget is Western Resources generation, $10 million; wastewater treatment plant, $3.2 million, new water tower, $1 million; Baker Wetlands water line relocation, $400,000; and electric system upgrades, $250,000.

"All of these run the budget up from last year," Paine said.

But not all of these projects that have been budgeted are definite projects, he said.

Western Resources generation money will be spent only if the city chooses that option as the solution to Baldwin's electricity problem.

Paine said if Baldwin partners with Western, the city wouldn't be paying the debt on the generation. It would only pay for the amount of electricity used, increasing the amount as needed.

"As we would grow in requirement, we will take on part of that," he said. "It would then become part of the regular budget."

Paine said the city is still also looking at a total requirements deal with Kansas City Power and Light.

The new water tower, which would replace the existing tower north of town at Signal Oaks, would be elevated to help increase water pressure.

"That's a project we're hoping to have partners on," he said. "They would have an impact on the total cost."

Those partners would be the cities of Wellsville and Edgerton. Paine said the three cities would share the cost of the tower.

The Baker Wetlands water line relocation would only take place if the south Lawrence traffic way were to be completed. He said that decision lies with the Kansas Department of Transportation, Douglas County and the city of Lawrence.

"It's a tricky issue when you talk about tripling the budget," Paine said. "It's not having a tripling effect on the residents of Baldwin. Those expenditures are not local city dollars that would be affected."

Residents will also see an increase in some utilities.

The water increase is based on an increased cost charged by the city of Lawrence to treat Baldwin's raw water drawn from Clinton Lake.

"This is basically a service charge," Paine said.

The sewer rate is also increasing, due to the $3.2 million upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant.

Paine said the actual change in rates will be decided by the Baldwin City Council at the next meeting.

"It will be a significant change," he said.

On an average, Paine said rates would probably increase from $15 to $25.

"That's normalizing things," he said. "The rate really depends on the water consumption."

There will not be an increase in electric rates next year.

Paine said residents will also be seeing a change in the mill levy next year.

"Basically, several things have happened to improve the mill levy," he said.

The mill levy for the 2002 budget will drop by at least three mills and could go as low as 12 mills, Paine said.

"The initial estimates put the budget at negative 12 mills without changing any of the basic services to the community," he said.

This year, the mill levy was at 44.654 mills. Next year, the mill levy will be decreased to at least 41.654 mills. Paine said it probably will not be decreased by all of the possible 12 mills.

"The council is looking at other projects to provide for long-term improvements," he said.

Those improvements include future High Street bridge replacements, an equipment replacement fund and possible paving of gravel streets.

"Basically, we've been blessed with a couple of things coming together that gives us an opportunity to address other problems that we haven't been able to address in a long time," Paine said.

One reason the mill levy has improved is because the assessed value has risen 13.82 percent from $15,481,717 to $17,622,045.

There has also been a 17-percent growth increase in sales tax revenue because of the increase in new businesses.

"That sales tax growth is not seen anywhere else in the county," Paine said.

The city refinanced existing debt, which combined with excess construction project funds, lowered requirements for the general obligation debt. Paine said the interest payments that were due Sept. 2001 were converted into a permanent debt, which will be spread out over 20 years.

Even though the mill levy will probably not be reduced by 12 mills, Paine said even a three-mill drop would help residents.

"They won't be asked to make as large a contribution of property tax to support the local government," he said.

Residents will have an opportunity to take a closer look at the budget, ask questions and provide input at a public budget hearing 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 6 at the Baldwin City Public Library.

"Based on comments, the council may elect to amend the budget in one or more ways and keep the budget the same or reduce it," Paine said.

Even though the budget total is larger, Paine said is a sufficient one.

"Just by luck of the calendar and generation of growth in the economy, it's made the budget more self-sustaining than it has been in the past," he said.

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