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The Rundown – City adopts 2020 budget with no tax increase

Post Date:08/14/2019 3:07 PM

The Rundown is prepared by the City of Newton Public Information Office to summarize the City Commission meeting and does not represent official Commission minutes.

7 p.m. Aug. 13, 2019, Newton City Commission meeting

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the City Commission adopted the 2020 budget, which keeps the property tax rate flat.

The main budget challenge was a need for an additional $720,000 to cover the Bond & Interest Fund for the next couple of years. That amount is needed to cover existing debt because some past bond issues were back-loaded, meaning the payments increased in later years.

The budget also includes:

  • An increase in funding to the Public Building Commission of 0.2 mills ($25,021) in hopes that, with Recreation Commission and School District cooperation, it will be possible to fund swimming pool and ballfield improvements through the PBC.
  • An increase of about $8,000 to the Newton City/County Airport which, along with an increase from Harvey County, will help fund the Airport Capital Improvements Plan.
  • Reinstatement in July 2020 of a full-time assistant city attorney/prosecutor position, which has been eliminated since 2016.
  • $50,000 to fund the second half of the housing incentive program.
  • Elimination of the City planner/historic preservation position.
  • Full funding for external agencies: $10,000 for Grand Central senior center, $40,000 for Health Ministries, and $30,000 for Newton Area Chamber of Commerce.

City staff committed to identifying an additional $250,214 in savings (the equivalent of 2 mills) in the General Fund budget. The intent will be to find these savings without reducing essential services, primarily by reducing contingency funds – taking on a bit more risk with the hope that worst-case scenarios will not occur. Together with the transfer necessary to cover the Bond & Interest Fund, the adjustments amount to a net reduction of about $500,000 in the General Fund and will leave an ending fund balance of 10.9 percent.

Commissioners noted the tough financial situation the City is in and warned that the next few budget years are not likely to be much easier.

T-21 ordinance

The Commission directed City staff to draft an evidence-based ordinance that raises the minimum age to 21 to purchase tobacco products, for consideration at the Aug. 27 meeting. The ordinance will be based on a model policy developed by a consortium of national public health organizations, which was presented at the meeting by Ginny Chadwick, western regional director of Tobacco 21, a national advocacy group.

The ordinance had been requested last month by student members of STAND, a youth leadership initiative of Mirror Inc. and the Tobacco Leadership Team.

Community recognition

The Commission recognized Dillons employees Lori Seron and Priscilla Araujo for their vigilance and quick coordination with Newton Police that led to the apprehension of two suspects in a multi-state theft ring.

Commissioners also honored 2019 Newton High School graduate Joel Golubski for being selected as part of the Governor’s Scholars Program, which honors the top academic 1 percent of high school seniors.

Yard of the Year

The Commission presented the 2019 Yard of the Year award to Robert and Elizabeth Pomeroy at 8 Indian Lane. Out of 15 nominated yards, the Pomeroys’ property ranked high in all categories, especially water conservation, good use of perennials, healthy turf and curb appeal.

In other action, the City Commission:

  1. Approved a one-year lease extension for the Parks Division maintenance building at 225 S. Meridian, and approved a proposal from GLMV Architecture for $145,750 for design of a new Parks facility near First and Boyd.
  2. Authorized issuing Industrial Revenue Bonds for construction of Park Aerospace Corp.’s facility expansion.
  3. Approved a temporary alcohol license for Sand Creek Summer Daze Festival on Aug. 16-17.
  4. Approved a request to close West Sixth Street and waive event fees for the United Way Chili Cook-off on Sept. 28.
  5. Approved a request to close West First Street for the Newton High School Homecoming Parade on Sept. 27.
  6. Approved a request to close Centennial Park parking lot for the Touch-a-Truck night on Sept. 20.
  7. Set a public hearing for 7 p.m. Sept. 24 on the creation of a Rural Housing Incentive District (RHID) near 24th Street and Anderson for the Newton Estates senior housing development.
  8. Approved an agreement with the Rudy C. Claassen Revocable Trust for acquisition of right-of-way on Hillside, and approved a parallel agreement with Sandra Suderman and Janet Puzycki if a signed agreement is received within the next seven days.
  9. Directed staff to negotiate and bring back a contract of sale for a triangle of City-owned property at 307 E. Sixth St., the current site of the Giving Garden, which an adjacent property owner wishes to purchase.
  10. Extended the term of the tax abatement granted to Future Foam for its facility expansion project for an additional 12 months.
  11. Approved an amended improvement resolution for sewer improvements for Rolling Hills 6th Addition.

For more information, please contact Director of Communications Erin McDaniel at 284-6055 or emcdaniel@newtonkansas.com.

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