City constructs project list for new tax funds
Brungardt says street improvements top De Soto’s first detailed capital improvement program
De Soto's proposed new sales tax's success at the polls could hinge on a five-year capital improvement plan city engineer Mike Brungardt is developing.
Earlier this month, the city council voted to seek voter approval of a 3/4-cent sales tax that would be dedicated to infrastructure improvements. City Administrator Gerald Cooper said the capital improvement plan would help the council explain the need for the tax increase.
"It will show voters what they are getting for their bucks," he said.
The city has had a capital improvement plan, but Cooper said the one Brungardt is developing would be much more detailed.
The city engineer said he started the process by submitting questionnaires to department heads, city council members and planning commissioners.
"I came up with a wish list of 55 projects," he said. "I've taken each project and defined its scope, benefits and objectives."
Brungardt said he is now working on project cost estimates. City Administrator Gerald Cooper is putting together revenue estimates.
The city's excise tax on new development and its share of fuel taxes each raise about $100,000 per year, Cooper said. If approved by voters, the 3/4-cent sales tax would add another $225,000 a year, he said.
Additional street funds could be available through the County Assisted Road System Program and the city's annual $100,000 Community Development Block Grant, Brungardt said.
The capital improvement plan will include a recommendation the city change its old-town street maintenance procedures.
"I'm not recommending we chip-seal anymore in the older section of town," he said. "Instead of chip-sealing old-town streets every three years, we'll mill over and reconstruct them every 10 years. The money works out about the same."
The city's excise and fuel taxes are dedicated to street, sidewalk and street drainage projects. Brungardt said streets will consume most of the revenue collected from the proposed sales tax increase as well, meaning it won't fund needed water and sewer improvements.
"The thought is most projects for the sewer and water departments should be funded from revenue those departments generate," the city engineer said. "Usage fees should cover operating costs and minimal capacity improvements as well."
New distribution lines, water towers and larger expansion and other big-ticket items will be paid for through connection charges, Brungardt said. The charges are more accurately called system-development fees, he said.
"The theory is every new customer is taking up existing capacity, creating the need for expansion," he said. "Big-ticket items like large distribution lines, water towers and plant expansion are driven by new development. The problem is we haven't been charging a system-development fee."
Brungardt will address that by suggesting a schedule of charges for water and sewer taps more in line with what other Johnson County cities are charging. Brungardt said the new fees will provide revenue needed to retire bonds for big-ticket items, he said.
Just how competitive De Soto tap fees should be compared to neighboring cities is a question for the city council to address, Brungardt said.
The capital improvement plan will be presented to the De Soto Planning Commission Aug. 28 and to the city council Sept. 6.