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From crime crack down to run-down houses
City council addresses next years goals for Great Bend
new deh city council budget search warrant pic
Great Bend police officers execute a drug-related search warrant recently. Reducing crime is one of the Great Bend City Councils goals for the upcoming year. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Great Bend City Council goals for 2014-2015
Continue strong economic and community development efforts
• Housing- single and multi-family- new, rental, and lodging
• Support and show appreciation for local businesses and industries
• Attraction of new businesses, industries, retail, and entertainment
• Continue convention center improvements
• Continue local, state and federal partnerships
Continue to improve image and attitude
• Keep the public informed on city projects and activities
• Market and promote our community
• Continue to concentrate on youth in our community
• Encourage and enhance events, festivals and activities
• Enhance code enforcement, demolitions, and clean up efforts
• Continue to make great bend friendly
• Maintain and enhance quality of life
Budget and financial management
• Be a good steward of public money through the budget process
• Continue infrastructure improvements
• Transfer to and build funds for capital projects/improvements
• Pursue grants when in the best interest of the city
Top priorities for 2014 and 2015
• Take necessary action to make Great Bend a safe and drug free community
• Construct new housing and demolish substandard housing
• Work to make the Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau more responsible to the city council
• Channel collective passion to accomplish goals

On June 13, Great Bend City Council members toured city facilities as the first step in the 2015 budget-planning process. Next they gathered on July 2 for a brain-storming session with the purpose of establishing their goals for the upcoming year.
The governing body met again Tuesday night to discuss details of the spending package during its annual budget-planning session. Armed with a three-ring binder and a stack of supporting materials, City Administrator Howard Partington first walked the council through the priorities, followed how much they will cost and where the money for them will come from to pay for them.
In a nutshell, according to city budget documents, the proposed budget calls for $24,738,000 in expenditures, up about 4.2 percent from last year, based on a mill levy of roughly 47.24, up from 45.8 in 2014. The plan is for the city to publish its budget during the first week of August and hold its budget hearing prior to the council meeting Aug. 18 at the City Office.
“I hear you and I kind of know what you want to do,” Partington said, addressing the council Tuesday night. He compiled what the members said during the goals session and prioritized it for his presentation.
For the sake of the meeting Tuesday, he addressed the top concerns, most of which were culled from the total goals list. A couple were new, derived from comments made by the council.
The key goals were:
• Take necessary action to make Great Bend a safe and drug free community.
“This goal may be addressed in a number of ways both within this budget and outside of the budget,” Partington sid. “By outside of the budget I mean by discussions with various people and groups and finding ways to reach the goal that may not require additional money,” such as conversations with school principals about programs or with the public on such ideas as neighborhood watches.
“Within the budget we indeed have the police budget and municipal court budget,” he said. “After listening to your comments at the goals session, I searched for a way to come up with a little more money to help fund some of your yet undecided specific goals of this subject.”
Great Bend Police Department School Liaison Officer Jefferson Davis no longer needed the services of an assistant. Therefore, in this budget, Partington added an additional $7,000 in a line item for his programs, and took the remaining $35,000 that was left over from the unfilled position that could be spent on drug and alcohol related projects or programs. This is funded with Special Alcohol Fund money.
Also in this regard, revenues from fines and court costs are projected to be $405,000 which is higher than years past. Part of this can be used to fund a new position in the municipal court needed for the increased activity.
• Construct new housing and demolish substandard housing.
Replenishing new housing stocks has been a city priority for several years, and it is again in the list. The city set money aside in the 2014 Budget to help pay for the Rural Housing Incentive District Project for Amber Meadows, and there is again a provision for this.
“We would recover the money over time,” he said. A total of $100,000 is targeted in the half-cent City Sales Tax Economic Development Fund.
As for substandard housing, demolition of these structures has been addressed financially for many years by having $50,000 each year set aside for abatement funding, Partington said. Most years the money is not used, but for 2014, the city will use a lot of money to raze the old opera house building at Forest and Williams.
The $50,000 is again shown in the 2015 Budget. The opera house project will likely eat up several year’s worth of this fund.
On a related note, the council authorized Partington to add $60,000 to the budget (the equivalent to 1.5 mills) to cover the salary of a staff position charged with expediting run-down house inspections and demolitions. The council will also bring in a consultant in the fall as part of an effort to revisit substandard housing codes.
• Work to make the Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau more responsible to the city council.
To give the council more flexibility, Partington said he added an additional $120,000 in budget authority to the Convention Center Fund. So, if the council decides to use additional money from the Transient Guest Tax to hire a convention center manager, it may do so.
In all, the budget calls for $260,000 in budget authority for the Convention Center and/or the CVB. In other words, Partington said the funds can be split between the two any way the council sees fit.
Nothing was taken away from the CVB allocation at this time and the matter has not been discussed with bureau Executive Director Cris Collier, he said. “The decision on this needs to come after considerable consideration.”
The council has discussed the CVB and its accountability for a couple years, Council Member Dana Dawson said, adding something needs to be decided soon.
Partington stressed this budget authority would not mean that additional money would be spent, just reallocated. The money is included in the budget total and the city would be allowed to spend up to that amount.
However, can’t “deficit spend,” Partington said. If it doesn’t have the cash on hand to cover an expenditure, it won’t happen.
This hasn’t been a problem since Partington and company budget low, basing all budget totals on conservative estimates. This leaves a reserve.
• Channel collective passion to accomplish goals
“This does not show up in the budget directly, but we can find ways to make things happen and have a better organization and community from our efforts,” Partington said.
There were no specific goals here. This was just a recognition that council members may have pet projects and they would be encouraged to promote them.
• City personnel salaries.
This was not a line-item goal, but was talked about extensively Tuesday night. There is a provision in the budget allowing a 4 percent pay increase for all city employees.
However, there was talk about allocating more for such jobs and firefighters and police officers due to heavy turnover in those positions. The council directed city administration to conduct a salary survey of other similar communities to help gauge what might be needed.