City news

The city of Abilene property tax mill levy isn’t expected to change for the 2020 budget, Interim City Manager Jane Foltz told two members of the Abilene City Commission at a study session Monday.

However, water and sewer rates are expected to rise for a second time.

In April 2018 the commissioners were told that projects for 2019 could result in a loss of $1 million.

The commission agreed to a seven-year plan in 2018 that would raise this year with graduate increases.

Expenses

The city staff reviewed expenses and income again for the 2020 budget.

“As we continue to see the fund balances decrease in both the water and sewer funds, staff has found a rate increase to be necessary at this time,” Finance Director Marcus Rothchild said in his report.

Rothchild met with Public Works Director Lon Schrader to review the water and sewer expenses and rates. They recommended proposals to break even within three years in both the water and sewer departments. The proposal would increase the rates over the next three years more aggressively and then flat annual rate increases will occur to reach 180 days of operating cash in 10 years.

“We are getting way behind on water and sewer paying for itself,” Foltz told Mayor Tim Shafer and Commissioner Trevor Witt.

“It’s been overlooked for a long time,” Shafer said.

Beth Warren with Ranson Financial reviewed Abilene’s sewer and water usage and rates last year and again this year.

On Monday she presented the commissioners three proposals for both water and sewer rates, including one with no rate increase and one to get to 180 cash in hand in five years.

The recommended water rates for the average city residential customer using 5,000 gallons a month are proposed at $33.83-2020, $38.14-2021, $43.00-2022, $44.60-2023 and $45.84-2024.

The recommended sewer rates for the average city residential customer using 5,000 gallons a month are proposed at $40.07-2020, $45.68-2021, $52.08-2022, $53.77-2023 and $55.52-2024.

2020 budget

A draft of a proposed 2020 budget was given to the commissioners at the study session. It showed a decrease in the mill levy from 51.495 in 2019 to 51 in 2020.

One mill generates about $55,000 in taxes.

However, Foltz said the budget is still in draft form and not complete.

“It’s a work in progress,” she said. “We are not complete. We are working on a number of projects.”

The commission has yet to address the Abilene Public Library budget or the funding of organizations.

The Abilene Public Library increased its mill levy by 0.754 mill in 2019 for salaries to raise them to community standards. Last January the Abilene City Commission voted down setting a cap on the library budget on a 2-3 vote.

Under the Kansas statute with which Abilene first established its library, the city commission is required to approve the requested budget that the library board determines it needs.

The 2019 budget contained funding for the Abilene Municipal Band, Abilene-Omitama Sister City, Central Kansas Free Fair, Dickinson County Heritage Center and the Dickinson County Economic Development Organization.

No meeting Monday

Because of a limited agenda, there will not be an Abilene City Commission Meeting on Monday, July 8. The next meeting is scheduled for July 22.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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