Despite concerns expressed by members of the audience, a majority of the Leavenworth City Commission decided Tuesday to go forward with publishing a proposed a 2014 budget without a mill levy increase.

Despite concerns expressed by members of the audience, a majority of the Leavenworth City Commission decided Tuesday to go forward with publishing a proposed a 2014 budget without a mill levy increase.

This means cuts to city funding for Leavenworth Main Street Program and Leavenworth County Development Corporation and the elimination of a firefighter position will remain in the proposed budget.

Commissioners have not yet approved the budget. But the publishing of the budget will cap the mill levy and spending levels for 2014.

The budget likely will be approved Aug. 13 following a public hearing.

City staff initially recommended increasing the mill levy, which would have resulted in a property tax increase, in order to make up a budget shortfall. But commissioners and city staff identified more than $300,000 in cuts to avoid a property tax increase.

One of the cuts was the elimination of an annual contribution to the Leavenworth Main Street Program. The city paid Main Street $50,000 this year, and officials with the organization that focuses on downtown development and revitalization asked for the same amount in 2014.

Supporters of Main addressed commissioners during Tuesday's meeting.

Wendy Scheidt, Main Street's executive director, said her organization provides economic development and helps with historic preservation.

She said Main Street also hosts events that bring people to the downtown area.

"Everybody benefits from what we do," she said.

She said if an organization is just trying to exist, it's not going to benefit anyone.

Scheidt said she was hoping commissioners would consider keeping Main Street funded at some level.

Downtown business owner Sherri Stich expressed concern that the downtown area is being impacted by the cut to Main Street as well as the elimination of a parking enforcement program.

"I'm hoping we weren't just an easy line item to cross off," she said.

She said Main Street only has $42,000 in reserves, but the cut will be $50,000.

"We will go away because we won't have the money," she said of the organization.

Commissioners also heard from supporters of LCDC. And a number of Leavenworth firefighters were in the audience.

One of the cuts identified for making up budget shortfall is the elimination of a $47,510 contribution to LCDC.

LCDC President Blaine Weeks said it was not a good time to raise taxes during the recession. But the economy is now gaining traction.

Among the other supporters of LCDC to address the City Commission was Tony Kramer. He serves on LCDC's Board of Directors. He noted that other cities as well as the county help fund LCDC. He said the city of Leavenworth is the leader in the county.

"It sends negative vibes out if you are not participating," he said.

Commissioners also heard from Mark Nietzke, who's the acting chief of the Leavenworth Fire Department.

One of the cuts identified is the elimination of a firefighter position. This will be achieved by not filling a vacancy created by a retirement.

Nietzke said losing a firefighter position will affect his department.

He said the Fire Department has minimum staff levels it has to maintain, and the cut will hurt later on if, for example, a firefighter is hurt and unable to work for a period of time.

Mayor Laura Janas Gasbarre asked the chief if the department will still be able to have its minimum of 14 people on duty at any given time.

He said the department will be able to maintain the minimum, but he said there could be additional overtime expenses. He said finding time to send firefighters to training also may be an issue.

Commissioner Lisa Weakley said she felt there was overwhelming support for raising the mill levy enough to restore funding for Main Street, LCDC and the firefighter position.

According to Finance Director Dan Williamson, this would result in a tax increase of about $1.20 per month for the owner of a $150,000 home.

Commissioner Davis Moulden also expressed support for Main Street, LCDC and the Fire Department. He also expressed support for the parking enforcement program.

Gasbarre said a silent majority was not in attendance.

"And there are a lot of people out there really hurting," she said.

She said a lot of them are business owners.

Gasbarre said isn't a matter of not supporting Main Street and LCDC. She said there's a misconception that commissioners don't support the downtown area.

She pointed to projects such as the Delaware Streetscape and Haymarket Square as examples of downtown projects funded by the city.

Commissioner Larry Dedeke said it's been noted that the city's mill levy hasn't been raised in 10 years He asked if people have considered whether the mill levy previously was too high.

Mayor Pro-Tem Mark Preisinger said "our taxes are out of kilter in this town." He argued that property taxes are too high and the sales tax rate is lower than other communities.

"We cannot put this on the backs of property owners anymore," he said.

He expressed support for the idea of a half cent sales tax increase to reduce the mill levy. But he suggested an additional smaller level of sale tax increase which could be used to support LCDC, Main Street and maybe even a firefighter position.

He said any sales tax increase would have to be approved by voters.

No formal vote was called for, but a majority of commissioners reached a consensus for keeping the previously identified cuts. Moulden and Weakley were not part of the consensus.