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Hoisington City Council prepares to talk budget
Financial stability and infrastructure on top
Hoisington Municipal Complex - photo by Tribune file photo

HOISINGTON — Every year, the City of Hoisington collects a list of priorities from each council member in order to determine where the city needs to focus its efforts and its dollars in advance of preparing the budget for the coming year. Monday night, City Manager Jonathan Mitchell presented a report with the results from this year’s survey.
He requested and received back nine surveys. Each survey asked council members to rank them in order of importance. He then took all the scores, added them into a spreadsheet and divided by nine to get the final score, he said. Those with a score of .50 or lower made the cut and will become the council’s priorities for 2018.
The overall top two priorities included maintaining the city’s financial stability and maintaining the city’s streets, water, sewer and electric infrastructure.
The increases council members were most resistant to were to property taxes and electrical rates.
Among organizations that the council felt should receive public dollars from the city, the city itself was the unanimous top choice, followed by the Hoisington Chamber of Commerce.
As far as staffing goes, the council’s top priorities in order were: maintain full-time staffing levels; update personnel manual to address significant changes, including the removal of references to union membership and recent changes to residency requirements; and maintain current part-time staffing levels.

What didn’t make the cut
Staffing priorities that came in just above the cut included adding temporary staff, adding a laborer to the public works department and adding a seventh police officer.
Police Chief Kenton Doze was given the floor briefly to talk about his department’s need for another officer.
Occasionally, search warrants have been delayed due to a shortage of staff.
“You have to have so many (on-duty officers) to execute a search warrant,” he said. “Someone is on the street taking the calls, and the manning is not there; we had on two occasions to pull that back.
“The other time that it became obvious was a couple of months ago when we had that tragedy that happened in town,” he said. He was referring to the March 18 report that a 2-year-old Hoisington girl, Iviona Marae May Lewis, was missing. She was later found dead in the county. “After we took control of the scene and executed the search warrant, we sat on the house for three days. We had to supply the manpower. You can’t just walk away from it. So that was 24 and 7 for three days on that house and it tasked us greatly. Luckily, the Sheriff’s Department was able to send some people; they are short handed too. And the calls are not getting easier. They are getting tougher all the time.”
Adding a building inspector came in at .55, so barely didn’t make the cut. If the city were to hire one, it would likely become a “second hat” with additional compensation for existing employees who already perform the duties of building inspector, following additional training, Mitchell said.

Community projects
Critical community projects, listed in order of priority are: cracking down on blighted properties; improving the existing swimming pool bathhouse; improving community sidewalks; making city hall ADA compliant; completing the second phase of the of cemetery fencing project; fixing side streets; and dedicating resources for new houses or business growth.
Mitchell noted that the bottom priority on the list had been a community dog park, of which the council had spent considerable time on earlier that meeting, and had approved the city moving forward with a grant application to build one. Council president Michael Aylward underscored the need for a grant in order to move forward on a dog park.
“We just don’t have any money to do that stuff,” he said.

Building a budget around priorities
Once all the priorities are funded, if there are additional dollars left, the city will fund items that did not make the cut until the money runs out, Mitchell said.
This sparked conversation about the need for additional security upgrades and cameras at the city’s parks and power and water plants. This priority did not make the cut. While there are cameras already in many areas, additional units could be utilized, Mitchell said.
Five budget work sessions will be scheduled throughout the month of July, with the final session prior to the July 23 regular city council meeting. The council will then publish the proposed budget, hold a public hearing, and certify it to the Barton County Clerk by Aug. 25.