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Council approves 2023 budget
Mill levy down, but still over revenue neutral rate
city budget hearing pic
Great Bend City Clerk Shawn Shafer, right, discusses the city 2023 budget with the City Council Tuesday night. The council went on to approve the spending plan. Also pictured is Councilwoman Natalie Towns. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Following both a revenue neutral rate hearing and the annual public budget hearing, the Great Bend City Council Tuesday night adopted the ordinance establishing the city 2023 operating budget. The spending package comes to $30,238,000.

In the plan, $26,751,500 comes from property taxes, with the balance of $5,782,471 from end-of-2022 cash transfers and is supported by a mill rate of 52.52. While lower than the 54.543 mill rate in 2022, it still exceeds the revenue neutral rate (RNR) of 51.130, said City Clerk Shawna Schafer.

RNR is the tax rate that would generate the same total property tax dollars for the city as the previous year using the current year’s assessed valuation. For 2023, that rate would be 51.13 mills, she said.

The plan, initially presented to the council on July 12 by City Administrator Kendal Francis, also includes $23,959,000 in operating revenue. Of that, 29% comes from sales taxes and 11% from property taxes, with the rest from sewer and water fees, and other sources (other fees, permits, facility rentals, franchise fees, etc.).

Of the expenditures, capital improvements/equipment, Police Department and Fire Department account for over half the budget. The remainder goes to parks, public works, staff benefits and other agencies.

Francis told the council in July that the city’s valuation had increased for the first time in four years. The valuation, the net value of all property, increased by $6.8 million to $110,101,598. 

One mill is one dollar per $1,000 of assessed value. For Great Bend in 2023, each mill is worth $110,102.

Some budget highlights:

• Cost of living raise: This is a 3% increase across the board with another 2% merit-based increase.

• Staffing: Included is the hiring of an assistant city administrator and a information technology technician.

• Health insurance: There will be a 7% increase for both staff and the city caused by the number claims in the partially self-funded plan.

• Retirement: This includes the changes to the city’s retirement plan for uniformed police and fire personnel and all city staff. The city will contribute 8.5% for all employees, bringing the city plan in line with the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System.

• Public Lands: Included are new outdoor basketball courts at Brit Spaugh Park and other projects, as well as utilizing the new quality of life sales tax revenue.

• Public Safety: Here higher fuel prices, a doubling of the per-day charge to house city inmates in the Barton County Jail and the new Police Station complex were factored in to the plan. Also, maintenance costs and long-term planning for new equipment (such as a new $1 million-plus ladder truck) for the fire department are considered.

• Public Works: Here, $950,000 is earmarked for residential street repairs. Also, included is a Stormwater Master Plan possibly tapping American Recovery Plan Act funds, a costly inventory of all lead pipes in use in the city and the automated (water) meter reading system.

Outside agency funding

• Volunteers in Action of Central Kansas/RSVP: $2,550 for the medical transportation program, 85% of the $3,000 requested. The proposed budget had originally not recommended any funding.

• Barton County Fair: $5,000. This is the same as last year, although $10,000 was requested.

• Barton County Historical Society: $10,000. The proposed budget had originally not recommended any funding.

• Golden Belt Humane Society: Fully funding at $105,000. The city is under contract with the society.

• Commission on Aging: $224,950. This reflects the $227,500 the agency received last year, minus the $2,550 that goes to VIA/RSVP.

• Great Bend Economic Development Inc.: $250,000, as requested. The recommendation was for $180,000, with an additional $70,000 with council approval.

• Great Bend Public Library: $712,000, same as last year. They had requested a $10,000 increase.

• Sunflower Diversified Services: Heeding administrative recommendations, funding is not included. However, the city will offer to give Sunflower the city-owned recycling trailer that sits at 18th and Williams.

The city had been giving Sunflower $4,500 for recycling services.