Leavenworth city staff are recommending a 1.73 mill levy increase for the 2014 budget, which would impact property taxes.
City Manager Scott Miller previewed the proposed $25.39 million budget Tuesday night for Leavenworth city commissioners ahead of budget work sessions that are scheduled to begin this afternoon.
"It is a very lean, bare bones budget," Miller told commissioners.
The city's mill levy is currently 51.844 mills. The mill levy has been relatively flat since 2006.
Miller said 1 mill generates about $200,000 in tax revenue for the city. He said a 1.73 mill increase would generate about $370,000 in additional tax revenue.
A 1.73 mill increase would result in a tax increase of $2.49 per month for the owner of a $150,000 home, according to information provided during the meeting.
"I don't like millage increases," Miller said.
He said the city is still attempting to come back from the recession. He said city officials have reduced expenses by $1.5 million since 2009.
"If we do any more reductions, we're going to start affecting our service levels," he said.
He said there is gap between the additional expenses the city is facing for things such as health insurance, utilities and debt service and the additional funding resources that will be available without the mill levy increase.
City commissioners took no formal action Tuesday regarding the budget. The budget for 2014 likely won't be approved until Aug. 13.
Mayor Pro-Tem Mark Preisinger said Tuesday that he hopes city officials present the commissioners the scenario of what would happen if the mill levy were to remain the same.
He said the 1.73 mill increase would equate to about a 3.5 percent increase in the city's mill rate.
He said the city could reduce the mill rate significantly if the local sales tax was increased by 1 cent. He said city commissioners can't increase the sales tax. It would take a vote by local residents.
"That's not our decision," he said.
But Preisinger expressed concern that issues that have caused city revenues to decline won't be helped by increasing property taxes.
Local resident Louis Klemp asked commissioners to study the budget in detail. He said officials have to get spending under control.
"Take care of what we have," he said.
He said officials can't keep adding to the list.
He also said there are areas where the city can collect additional money.
Also Tuesday, commissioners reached a consensus to advance a proposed ordinance related to the proposed tax increase. The proposed ordinance was advanced for a possible future vote.
Finance Director Dan Williamson said the law requires such ordinances. He said the city commission technically doesn't need to pass the ordinance this year because the tax increase would be within $5,000 of the threshold. But Williamson said he believes it was prudent to submit the proposed ordinance in keeping with the spirit of the law.
Page 2 of 2 - Preisinger suggested holding off on giving the ordinance a first consideration. He said this could be done next week after the commissioners have had their budget work sessions.
"We could do that," Miller said.
Commissioner Lisa Weakley said she saw no harm in taking up the proposed ordinance Tuesday. A vote wouldn't be taken until after it comes back to commissioners for second consideration.
"It just doesn't feel right to me to say yes now," Preisinger said.
Despite Preisinger's objections, the other three commissioners in attendance reached the consensus to move forward with the ordinance. Commissioner Davis Moulden was absent.
The budget work sessions are scheduled for 1 p.m. today, Thursday and Friday at Leavenworth City Hall, 100 N. Fifth St.