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Council votes to publish stable budget
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When it comes to the City of Great Bend’s proposed budget for 2012, no news is good news.
“This is a pretty stable budget,” said City Administrator in addressing his City Council Monday night. Over the course of a four-and-a-half-hour budget session at City Hall, he walked the council members through a myriad of work sheets outlining spending package.
In the end, the council unanimously approved publishing the budget. The next step will be the public budget hearing at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 20, prior to the regular council meeting.
“There aren’t any increases in the mill levy, there aren’t any increases in water or sewer rates and there aren’t any increases in other fees,” he said.
The budget totals $23,635,000 compared to $24,287,000 in 2012. This is a $652,000 decrease, but Partington said that is a little deceiving.
This includes the removal of the self-fueling station at Great Bend Municipal Airport as a city responsibility. That, which was in a separate fund outside the massive general fund, accounted for $500,000.
Looking solely at the general fund (which includes the majority of day-to-day city operations and capital outlay), the budget dropped .32 percent from last year – from $15,618,000 to $15,568,000.
Of the total budget, 14 percent goes to the police department, 12 percent to sewer, 11 percent to the fire department, 8 percent to water, 8 percent to bond and interest payments and 7 percent to streets. The balance is divided between the library, parks, economic development, other agencies and assorted interests.
The proposed mill levy is 43.77, down a tick form 43.79 in 2012. This is based on an assessed valuation for the city of $94,249,605, up slightly from $93,471,673 in 2012. Each mill generates $93,507, up from $93,472 last year.
The city also projects $2 million in sales tax revenue, $1,725,000 from water charges and $1,987,000 from sewer.
Factored in also was the city’s total indebtedness which comes to $12,755,251 for general obligation bonds. Payments on these will cost the city $2,029,984 in 2013.
 “We budget very conservatively,” Partington said. He told council members about numerous cities across the country and in Kansas that are struggling.
A lot of the communities tapped their reserves (Great Bend has over $4 million socked away in the general fund) or are struggling with pension issues. Great Bend utilizes a 401A retirement program, which has a defined contribution from participants rather than the Kansas Public Retirement System (KPERS) which has a defined benefit, meaning the employee rather than the employer assume the loses from market loses.
The city council Monday did kick in extra funds to the plan to help offset the plan declines. The money came from money left in the pension fund by employees who left before being vested. This injection was divided up based on employee longevity.
“If you are going to remain fiscally strong, you can’t budget every penny you have,” he said. “We want to right-size the budget at the right time. We want to find efficiencies as we go.”
The budget includes a continuation of a 4-percent across-the-board pay increase for city workers. This is important, Partington said, so Great Bend remains more competitive when attracting and retaining employees.
He discussed several big projects on the horizon, such as work at the airport, the Expo Complex and the Convention Center. The importance of funding for economic development was also discussed at length.