LARNED — Even as some city expenses rise, Larned residents will see a significant mill levy decrease in 2022, according to the proposed budget approved for publication by the Larned City Council Monday night.
The budget includes a total mill levy of 57.308, down from 62.625 in 2021. This means a decrease of 5.317 mills, or $5.317 for every $1,000 in assessed valuation. With a total assessed valuation $18,375,446, the means a total revenue decrease of $97,702.
The decrease is in large part due to the transfer of the city’s EMS service to a joint Pawnee County EMS, a change that will take effect Jan. 1, 2022. Pawnee County will take ownership of all city-owned equipment and facilities related to the EMS service and will be responsible for its day-to-day operations. City Manager Bradley Eilts said the move will save the city roughly $246,000 annually.
This comes also at a time when the city saw its first increase in projected assessed valuations since 2016. Although the increase is nominal, according to Eilts, rising about $130,000, or about 0.7 percent, the combination of a rising valuation and decreased expenses puts the city in positive fiscal shape.
“We’ve got some good things going on,” Eilts said. “It’s a trend we want to see.”
Eilts said this comes at an opportune time for the city, as it faces cost increases in other areas.
“It gives us some additional flexibility (to address issues),” he said.
In particular, based on recent trends, the city anticipates significant expense increases in commodities essential to city functions, such as cement, fuel and chemicals. Eilts expects the street and parks departments to be hardest hit by these increases, with a $41,000 increase expected between the two departments.
However, the budget savings from the EMS transfer will allow the city to address other pressing needs with personnel, as well.
With the revenue, the city is looking at hiring an additional dispatch staff member half-time, which will cost the city $38,000 annually between salary and benefits. Eilts felt this move would actually result in savings to the city, as well as improving efficiency within that department.
The city also has a new code enforcement officer, so an additional $45,000 was reallocated to code enforcement and building inspections, as well as an additional $4,000 for training for the new code enforcement officer.
The decrease in tax dollars requested also means the city will not have to grapple with the new revenue-neutral rate (RNR) rules brought about by Kansas Senate Bill 13, commonly known as the Truth in Taxation Bill. The RNR is the mill levy rate at which an entity collects the same amount of tax revenue as in the previous budget year. This rate would have been 62.193 mills for the city of Larned, and the city falls well below this.