Archive for Thursday, July 27, 2006

Mill levy, sewer rate increases proposed

July 27, 2006

The need to replenish the city's neglected debt service fund combined with the start of payments on the new pool and sewer plant has De Soto City Administrator Pat Guilfoyle recommending a 2007 budget that increases the mill levy and sewer rates.

At a workshop last Thursday, Guilfoyle presented the De Soto City Council with his proposed 2007 budget he characterized the budget as "practical" and endorsed by all city department heads.

The $11 million budget Guilfoyle proposed would raise the property tax assessment 1.48 mills in that part of the city served by the De Soto Fire Department (primarily De Meadows and De Soto west of Lexington Avenue) and .86 mills in the large section of the city in Johnson County Fire District No. 3.

Although the news came during a workshop on the 2007 budget, the proposed sewer rate increase will probably start showing up this fall on customers' bills.

The schedule the council adopted in 2004 to pay for the new sewer plant now being constructed in the West Bottoms counts heavily on future growth, but it was known rate increases averaging 6 percent would be needed in the first five years of the plant's construction and operation.

Guilfoyle told the council he would present a resolution next month for consideration that would implement a 10 percent rate hike.

But the city administrator explained that impending action did not mean all city sewer customers would see their bills increase by 10 percent. As it did in 2001, the council could adopt a sliding scale, which would have smaller increases for low-volume customers (based on water usage) and bigger increases for large-volume customers.

"There are several ways we can do that," Guilfoyle said. "The simplest way to do it would be a 10 percent across-the-board increase. The other way is to look at the different usage rates."

Guilfoyle said he would have options for the council to consider at its Aug. 3 meeting.

As for the mill levy increases, council members gave them their support if not enthusiasm. Councilman Tim Maniez said he disliked increasing the mill levy when the city's assessed value increased.

But Guilfoyle said the increase wasn't universal. The city's personal property assessment declined because of the Kansas Legislature's decision to take business machinery off the tax rolls. And that part of the city the De Soto Fire Department serves had a 2.95 percent decline in assessed valuation, necessitating a .6 mill levy increase to maintain the fire department's current expenditure level.

Also driving the proposed mill levy increase was a proposal to increase support to the debt service fund by 20 percent, Guilfoyle said. That increase reflected the need to start paying for the aquatic center but also a need to replenish the debt service fund that has gone unfunded or under-funded the last two years.

If the council was determined not to increase the mill levy, the added support for the debt service fund could be a place to start, Guilfoyle said. But he warned that could have consequences.

"If we do go back down another year, there is the potential for significant mill levy increases down the road," he said.

On the positive side, Guilfoyle said he had started investing the city's $2 million electrical utility fund through competitive bids from banks in the De Soto Chamber of Commerce. The move has produced significantly better rates that could be used to reduce future mill levies, he said.

At the suggestion of Councilwoman Linda Zindler, Guilfoyle agreed to review city permit costs and court fines before council adopts a 2007 budget.

A public hearing on the budget -- published in the legal notices in this week's The De Soto Explorer -- is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 3 at De Soto City Hall, 32905 W. 84th St.

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