Douglas County dispatch commitment contributes to proposed city mill levy increase
After some grousing Monday about Douglas County passing on costs of its dispatch center to Baldwin City for the first time, the Baldwin City Council took a step toward approving a $17.05 million budget for 2014.
By approving the budget for publication, the council set the date for a public hearing on adoption of the 2014 budget for Aug. 5. At that time, the council can decrease the expenditures in the city’s 25 different funds from those listed in the published budget, but can’t raise spending levels without republishing the budget.
• Four percent employee merit pay increase
• $20,000 for Douglas County dispatch services
• $20,000 for new snow plow blades
• $40,000 for new business park feasibility/housing study
• $50,000 for gateway entry maker
• $3,000 for Douglas County Senior Services initiatives in Baldwin City
• $15,000 contribution for new senior transportation bus
• $40,000 for grants for downtown murals or façade improvements
• $30,000 for economic development initiatives
• $15,000 for special economic development projects (to be determined)
• $32,000 for new police vehicle
• $10,000 for swimming pool equipment
The proposed budget would set the city’s 2014 mill levy at 35.081 mills, a 1.54-mill increase from the current year. That mill rate would raise the taxes on a $100,000 home by $11.23, to $396.97 from $385.74 last year.
Baldwin City Administrator Chris Lowe shared details on the 2014 budget with the Baldwin City Council at a workshop Monday. The council approved publication of the 2014 budget later during its regular meeting.
Putting stress on the budget process was a 1.6 percent decline in the city’s overall assessed real estate valuation. Although less than the 2.6 decline of a year ago, the valuation decline means a mill will produce $484 less in 2014 than in 2013.
Lowe said the decline in valuation meant the city would have to increase its mill levy by 0.54 mills just to bring in the same amount of property tax revenue as it did this year.
Adding to the increased pressure on the mill levy is the demand from Douglas County that it help pay for the salaries of four additional county dispatchers, Lowe said. That would be a $20,000 expense the county has never asked of Baldwin City in the past, he said.
Although the demand came from the county, it originated from the city of Lawrence, which refused to cooperate with the hiring of the added dispatchers unless Baldwin City and Eudora helped pay their salaries, Lowe said.
Lawrence has an agreement with the county to pay for 66 percent of the cost of dispatch even though more than 80 percent of the county’s dispatch calls originate from Lawrence, Lowe said. Fewer than 1 percent of calls to county dispatch originate in Baldwin City, he said.
The proposed budget does provide for a 4 percent merit pay increase to city employees getting satisfactory reviews. Because employees are reviewed on the anniversary of their hiring, the measure would only increase total salary costs by 1.9 percent in 2014, Lowe said.
City budget by the numbers
• Total budget: 2014, $17.06 million ($13.84 million after on paper $3.21 million zeroing out of reserve funds); 2013 total budgeted expenditures, $13.70 million
• General fund budget: 2014, $2.59 million, 2013, $2.4 million
• Mill levy: 2014, 35.081 mills; 2013, 33.542 mills
• City’s total assessed valuation in 2014 budget, $29.7 million; assessed valuation in 2013 budget, $30.19 million
• Value of 1 mill of taxation in city revenue: 2014, $30,187; 2013, $29,704
• City share of taxes per $100,000 of assessed valuation on a single-family home: 2014, $396.97; 2013, $385.74
The increase is the city’s attempt to ensure employees stay ahead of the 2.5 percent Midwest cost of living increase, Lowe said. Douglas County and the city of Lawrence proposed 4 percent salary increases for their employees in their 2014 budgets, he said.
The big capital improvement project included in the 2014 budget is the city’s commitment to provide $139,800 for the realignment of the High Street/U.S. Highway 56 intersection. The city is a partner with the state and Douglas County in the project.
No fee increases were recommended for 2014 for the city’s water, sewer and refuse utilities. However, the budget does earmark funds for water and sewer rate studies as a prelude to possible future increases. For instance, while the water department is now operating under terms of a new wholesale water agreement with the city of Lawrence, which decreased the city’s wholesale purchase price by 25 percent, Lawrence projects large rate increases to pay for a five-year capital improvement program, according to a written report presented to the council. Baldwin City also should expect to see an increase in the cost of raw water it takes from Clinton reservoir when its current contract with the Kansas Water Office expires in 2017, the report said.
The report noted the sewer fund was the “least healthy” city utility and not producing enough revenue to cover basic operating costs. Lowe’s report recommends increased staffing for the department for improved maintenance as a way to cut costs.
The $17.06 million budget total includes the zeroing out of $3.21 million in reserve funds. With that paperwork expenditure removed, actual budgeted city expenditures for 2014 would total $13.85 million, compared to the city’s $13.70 million in total 2013 expenditures.