Leavenworth city commissioners reached a consensus Tuesday regarding cuts in the proposed 2014 budget that should keep the mill levy flat for next year.

Leavenworth city commissioners reached a consensus Tuesday regarding cuts in the proposed 2014 budget that should keep the mill levy flat for next year.

Commissioners took no formal vote on the budget, but city Finance Director Dan Williamson said he will publish the proposed budget in the newspaper based on the consensus reached Tuesday.

Williamson said publishing the budget will set an upper limit for property taxes and spending for the 2014 budget.

Commissioners will have a public hearing on the budget Aug. 13. And following the hearing, they'll be able to vote to approve the $25 million budget.

The proposed 2014 budget was reviewed by commissioners during three work sessions last week. City staff had proposed a mill levy increase to make up a budget shortfall of more than $300,000. The increase of 1.652 mills would have resulted in a property tax increase.

Friday afternoon, commissioners discussed possible cuts to the budget to avoid a tax increase. The suggested cuts included the elimination of a downtown parking enforcement program and monetary contributions to the Leavenworth Main Street Program and the Leavenworth County Development Corporation.

After identifying several possible cuts Friday, city officials still needed to find a way to save about $67,000 in the budget in order to keep the mill levy flat.

"We sat down as a staff and did a little brainstorming," Williamson said Tuesday.

He presented commissioners additional ideas for saving money in the budget. They included the elimination of a firefighter position.

City Manager Scott Miller said two people plan to retire from the Leavenworth Department at the end of the year. One position could be left unfilled.

Another cost saving measure proposed Tuesday is taking half of the funding for a geographic information system position from the city's sewer fund. The sewer fund is funded by services fees rather than property taxes. Williamson said the GIS person does a lot of work related to the sewer service.

Williamson said he also identified $5,965 in additional revenue that he'd previously not found.

The final proposal for saving money was eliminating a trip by firefighters to a fire equipment exposition in Indianapolis.

The cuts identified Friday plus those presented Tuesday total $354,455 in reductions. Only $322,220 in reductions are needed to keep the mill rate flat.

Commissioner Larry Dedeke asked if the approximately $32,000 difference could be used toward paying for health insurance for employees.

One of the cuts identified Friday was a reduction in how much is being budgeted for an increase in the city's share of the cost for employee health insurance. Initially, a 6 percent increase was budgeted, but this was reduced to 3.5 percent.

Williamson said he'd personally rather see the $32,000 used for salary increases.

One of the other cuts proposed reduced employee raises from an average of 2.2 percent to 1.75 percent.

Mayor Laura Janas Gasbarre advocated putting the balance toward employee compensation.

Dedeke argued employees would come out further ahead if the money was applied toward their insurance costs rather than salaries.

Mayor Pro-Tem Mark Preisinger said some city employees don't use the city's health insurance program because they use their spouses' insurance.

He said adding the $32,000 to salaries almost zeros out the reduction made to the proposed pay raises.

Commissioner Lisa Weakley said she was more comfortable with putting the money into salaries.

Commissioner Davis Moulden said he knows the city probably will have to eliminate its $50,000 contribution to the Main Street Program, but he's not happy about it.

"Main Street is there to help people downtown," he said.

Weakley said the hardest thing for her is cutting the money paid to Main Street and LCDC, but commissioners are looking at a dire economic situation. Weakley said she hopes the city will continue it relationship with the organizations.

"It's been the toughest budget I've ever experienced in working with the city," she said.

Moulden asked how much it would cost people if the city didn't eliminate the contributions to Main Street and LCDC.

Williamson said this would result in a property tax increase that would work out to an additional 72 cents per month for the owner of a $150,000 home.

Gasbarre suggested the possibility of raising the mill levy enough to give Main Street and LCDC half of what they requested for next year.

Preisinger expressed concern about funding even half of the requested contributions of Main Street and LCDC while cutting a firefighter position.

"That doesn't sound right to me," he said.

There was a consensus among at least a majority of the commissioners to move forward with the budget cuts as they'd been proposed and apply the $32,000 balance toward salary increases.