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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Budget picture mixed

  • They won't get to look at the numbers until next week, but members of the Lansing City Council got some idea Thursday of where they're 2014 fiscal year budget will be going.
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  • They won't get to look at the numbers until next week, but members of the Lansing City Council got some idea Thursday of where they're 2014 fiscal year budget will be going.
    The council heard from City Finance Director Beth Sanford about what the council can look for as they receive their budget books Tuesday. Those books, and the questions stemming from them, will be the basis for a July 11 work session with the council. The picture is somewhat mixed.
    Sanford said valuation in the city is up by about 3.2 percent, which means that one mill generates a larger amount of property taxes and the city could generate more revenue without raising its tax rate, though property owners would like pay the same amount. The current property tax levy, according to Sanford, is 39.898 mills, up exactly 3 mills from 2009.
    However, she said the city's fund balances, held aside as reserve funds, have declined dramatically over the last couple of years, having been drawn from to make up shortfalls elsewhere in the budget.
    “We have been lucky,” she said. “During the really hard years, we had a fund balance where we didn't have to impact the taxpayers as much as other municipalities.”
    In 2010, that fund balance was $984,000. In 2013, the fund balance stood at $457,263.
    “Based on this year's expenses, we're projecting $268,000,” she said. “That's too low.”
    Maintaining such a low reserve balance could leave the city in a tough financial spot, Sanford said.
    “It also affects our rating,” she said. “If we go out to bond projects, we have to go to Moody's and get rated.”
    In total, Sanford said preliminary expectations were for the city to increase expenditures and transfers in 2014. However, she said all of those projections were “very rough,” made without knowledge of the valuation increase or a number of other factors. So while the transfers were estimated to include $643,200 for the capital improvements plan ― the annual public works program ― compared to $400,000 the year before, Mayor Billy Blackwell encouraged the council to compare the numbers in Sanford's presentation with those in Tuesday's book.
    “You see proposed numbers up here of what we wanted to come in with and what you're actually going to get in the budget book,” he said. “There have been some tough decisions made, the CIP being a classic example of that.”
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