City moves forward with proposed budget

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

Following a day-long budget meeting, Leavenworth city commissioners are moving forward with a proposed mill levy decrease for 2022. But the proposed city budget will exceed what is known as the revenue neutral rate for the city government.

Mill levies are used in determining property taxes.

City officials have proposed an overall mill levy reduction of 0.66 mills for 2022.

However, the proposed budget will exceed what is considered the city's revenue neutral rate because of an increase in property valuation. This means property tax revenue will increase in dollars next year even if the mill levy is reduced by 0.66 mills.

A new state law will require the Leavenworth City Commission to conduct a public hearing in order to exceed to revenue neutral rate.

City Manager Paul Kramer said this hearing is planned for Aug. 24.

Kramer said a property tax lid that previously was in place under state law allowed for various exceptions. But the new state law does not allow for such exceptions when it comes to the revenue neutral rate.

"It does not allow for new growth," he said.

He said the revenue neutral rate also does not allow for increased expenses for things such as public safety and infrastructure.

Kramer addressed the revenue neutral rate at the conclusion of a day-long budget meeting Friday.

The city commission took no formal vote at the end of Friday's meeting, but they agreed to some changes related to the budget.

Commissioners OK'd an increase in funding for the Leavenworth Main Street Program. They also agreed to set aside $50,000 because of uncertainty regarding the Leavenworth County Development Corporation.

According to Kramer, the increase in funding for Main Street and the money being set aside for LCDC will come from sales tax revenue and not impact property taxes in the city.

LCDC traditionally receives funding from several local cities as well as the county government. The economic development organization also receives support from area businesses.

For 2022, LCDC requested $50,606 in funding from the city of Leavenworth. Commissioners plan to provide this level of funding. But Kramer suggested setting aside an additional $50,000.

He made the suggestion because it appears the county government will be reducing its level of funding for LCDC and its partner organization, Leavenworth County Port Authority, in 2022. County officials have expressed a desire to create a economic development director position for the county government.

"LCDC is going to come back to us for a larger request," Kramer told city commissioners. "They just don't know what it is."

Mayor Nancy Bauder said local cities and the county are able to avoid paying for redundant services by relying on a single organization such as LCDC.

"That's why it's so important and the county doesn't see it that way," she said.

The city of Leavenworth provided $32,000 in funding to the Main Street Program this year.

Officials with Main Street, which focuses on the downtown area, requested $82,000 in funding from the city for 2022.

Commissioners agreed Friday to increase the funding for Main Street to $39,250. This amount was suggested by Commissioner Mark Preisinger. The amount matches the level of funding Main Street is anticipating from businesses and other private supporters in 2022.

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