July 28, 2014

Gardner looks to raise utility rates 12 percent

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com
Gardner residents may get hit with a 12 percent increase in sewer and water rates. City finance director Laura Gourley said rates must increase by that amount to perform deferred repairs and maintenance on existing facilities and equipment.
“That only covers immediate needs,” she told council members during a July 1 work session.
The rate increases would cost the average homeowner 35 cents per day or nearly $130 annually.
Next year’s utility budget includes several repairs to existing equipment, including $55,000 to update piping at the Kill Creek Waterwater Treatment Plant. The plant was built in 2002. Another $100,000 would be devoted to painting the Hillsdale clear well. A $1.1 million package plant would increase capacity at Hillsdale Water Plant, which Gourley said is a short-term solution. The plant is at 90 percent capacity.
The budget also includes the addition of one new utility employee, who would divide time between the water and wastewater departments.
The rates will need to increase at similar percentages for several years to maintain Gardner’s current facilities, she explained.
Council member Kristina Harrison asked if there was room in the electric utility budget, which is governed by a separate board, to buy down water rate increases. Council member Heath Freeman asked if some of the funds in reserves could be used to buy down rate increases as well.
Last year, council members thought they would need to increase rates by 6 percent, but Gourley said those rate increases were based on rosy growth projections.
“Rates are driven by growth,” she said. “We do not have growth so we have to hit our residents.”
She listed a series of projects for which Gardner was considered including Legoland in Kansas City, Mo., and the racetrack and Legends Shopping Center in Kansas City, Kan.
Council member Larry Fotovich said Legends is not a good example.
“Taxes in that area for residential homeowners have gone up,” he said. In some areas, taxes have increased as much as 40 percent while housing values have decreased in Kansas City, Kan.
“Their taxes went up even more than ours,” Fotovich said. Gardner’s taxes have increased almost 30 percent in the last four years.
“I think you can have a model for the city that takes care of the people that are already here and makes it so nice that people want to come here,” he said. “You would think all of that (Kansas City, Kan.) growth would bring prosperity. It’s a lot of empty promises.”
Council member Steve Shute said he also had a visceral reaction to the use of Legends as an example of the benefit of growth. With the Legends project, the developer declared bankruptcy, Shute said.
“They still don’t know how they’re going to retire that debt,” he said.
He said municipalities are very bad venture capitalists, and that the city should be careful in providing tax dollars to developers chasing growth.
Gourley told council the general fund budget is being developed using four priorities council members set in April. They are: promoting economic development; improving the quality of life; fiscal stewardship; and infrastructure and asset management.
To promote economic development, city staff will propose a 2014 budget that includes $80,000 for a comprehensive plan update; $30,000 for economic development technical studies to assist in cost-benefit analysis of proposed projects; $20,000 for an updated city website; and $25,000 to fund an economic development partner. Currently, the city pays $25,000 in membership fees to the Southwest Johnson County Development Corporation, but council members have yet to reach a consensus on whether to continue that practice.
Gourley said the $4.7 million budget proposal also adds of new staff members including a street maintenance worker, a police officer and a network administrator before the end of 2013 and a special projects manager, an administrative assistant and two new police officers in 2014.
Gourley said with city has doubled in size every 10 years for the last 30 years, she projects a population of nearly 40,000 by 2020. Gardner’s staffing is far behind cities outside of the metro area with populations that large.
“We need to be prepared for the growth or we will be steamrolled,” she said.
The growth projections, however, are in contrast to growth projections a team of consultants are using to develop the southwest Johnson County Area Plan.
Consultants funded by the Kansas Department of Transportation, Johnson County, Gardner and Edgerton project 19,000 new residents over the course of 30 years. Of those, they project 6,000 will be due to intermodal growth.
Municipal budgets must be approved by the council and forwarded to the state of Kansas no later than Aug. 25.

Comments

  1. Judith Rogers says:

    The thieves and their slimy politicians and bureaucrats continue to put the knife into the back of every average citizen (it will probably soon be a gun in your back) and sad to say, the citizens continue to not get it and enable and support the lowlifes. There are consequences for your choices………………expensive and far reaching consequences. You will be living in an industrial hellhole while paying the outlandish costs that the thieves don’t want to pay and transfer their tax burden to you, average citizen, as fast as they can tell and demand those politicians and bureaucrats to do so. And citizens are paying for million dollar retirement programs (city mgr. has you pay for TWO retirement programs for her) for these bureaucrats on top of their hefty salaries and other perks – thanks to your rubber stamping politicians. That economic development snake in the grass is always at the top of the list while citizens’ quality of life is a thing of the past and it is an insult to any homeowner who lives in Gardner whenever it is mentioned – citizens’ quality of life is a joke when it is bantered around by the politicians and bureaucrats. The conniving, manipulation, lies, propaganda, rhetoric and moral corruption continue to be in full swing at Gardner City Hall in my opinion and I fully expect the apathetic citizens to continue to support what goes on at the House of Cards on Main Street. Something to think about on this 4th of July, 2013 – what will you be living with in 2030 and how much will you be paying for it? If you were smart and could afford to do so, you would be packing your bags.

  2. jon soileau says:

    With all due respect, it appears as though the intention of raising utility rates as mentioned has been openly stated by the city government for some time now. In the 2011 Annual financial report, the explicit intent of raising water rates by 5% and waste water rates by 8% annually each year over the next several years was published. This is nothing new and quite frankly I don’t understand why this was even suggested by our finance director as though it wasn’t already in the budget. I don’t condone this increase; in fact I’m displeased with the notion that raising rates as frequently and gingerly in which it’s currently being done is an unacceptable behavior. I think it might just be time again to consider the possibility of selling Gardner utilities (all three parts). What I don’t understand is why not? If we sell, then the local city government still gets to charge a franchise tax to whomever provides our city with utilities and make revenue, right? Yeah so we don’t “have control over the utilities”; it’s not like we have control over them under the current situation either. That’s not intended to be a slight towards anyone, but a statement of fact. If we are experiencing such rate increases year over year as we are currently, then I would respectfully propose that no one has control or at least not the answer to solving the problem anyways. If your reading this and think I’m full of it, do the research yourself as I did. Go to the websites for KCPL, Water One, Johnson County Waste Water, and the City of Gardner; on each site you will see the rates listed in which each charges their customers. You will quickly discover what I did….we are paying too much (on average 20% more annually overall). thatisall.

  3. Judith Rogers says:

    The first thing citizens have got to get thru their hard heads is recognizing whether politicians and bureaucrats like Drovetta and Bill Kraw (head of Gardner Energy) and those on that Electric Board actually work for the citizens or the thieves. And when the citizens finally recognize the facts these jaybirds work for the thieves and do something about that fact, then citizens will be making advances to controlling their destiny and their wallets.

    Just a couple years ago Bill Kraw and Drovetta came up with the scheme to have Gardner Energy increase their franchise fees (which citizens have to pay) paid to the city of Gardner so the city would have money to give ALL city employees a raise. Right there is a perfect example of conniving and manipulation and mixing of the money pools. In my opinion Bill Kraw should have been fired on the spot for that one and Drovetta kicked out of office which was finally done, however, Morrow is a sad replacement in my book. Then you have those business entities in New Century getting their water from the city of Gardner at a cost that is not even coming close to being FAIR AND EQUITABLE – citizens paying about $6 per 1,000 gallons and those thieves paying only $2 or $3 per 1,000 gallons and you have your Mayor, Council and City Staff to blame for that sweet deal. As I have said a thousand times – the jaybirds aren’t working for the people – they are working for the thieves – CRONYISM GOVERNMENT with a very high cost to average, hardworking persons.

    Next I have heard people like Beasley who is on that Electric Board, and I am sure Bill Kraw and others, talking about giving even more reduced rates for electricity to business entities, having the people pay for transfer fees for business entities to come on board for our electric service and the sweet deals never, never, never end. They talk about selling off your utilities and/or services like they did with the Fire Dept. Think that is going to help you? I highly doubt it, just another entity getting their cut or making a profit and you certainly lose all control of what comes down or up. But if you have elected politicians and bureaucrats who are supposed to be working for you and aren’t, then I would say you better start pulling the rug out from under them and holding them accountable.

    You have builders, developers, investors, banks, savings and & loan associations, and other business entities getting their “farm” appraisals on their properties and absolutely gutting the tax revenue citizens should be getting from them. We are talking about millions and millions of dollars of lost tax revenue and you see not a damn one of those legislators or city leaders or county leaders doing a freaking thing about this legal fraud. And the people allow all of this crap to continue.

    Then you have the slimy Walmart TIF wherein you lost millions and millions of tax revenue so Walmart doesn’t have to pay for development costs that should have been on their dime and certainly not on the backs of Gardner Citizens. Citizens might be wanting to ask their House of Cards city government when that TIF is going to be paid (ask the City how much total revenue is going each year to that TIF) and how much tax revenue will we be getting and what are we going to do with those tax dollars – I am sure they will or already have decided how those dollars will be going to the thieves once again for their wants and needs – they sure as hell never want to pay for costs and never, ever want to pay their FULL TAXES as citizens have since Day 1.

    Citizens just recently were placed in about $9 MILLION more debt (citizens will be making a hefty payment on that debt each year) due to the conniving and manipulation of Mike Press and Drovetta for that sewer plant that Edgerton didn’t have enough money to cover and your lovely Council approved that one too. If there is any citizen out there who think they will be better off by taking care of the thieves instead of themselves, then I do believe you need a brain transplant, if one was available.

    Fotovich and Shute are the only two who even show a semblance of knowing how citizens are being screwed by the “economic development” swindling that has been going on now for years and gets worse by the day due to politicians, especially ones like Brownback,

    Lies, propaganda, rhetoric, dishonesty, manipulation, conniving, etc., etc. continue to thrive due to the breast milk provided by citizens across the land. Citizens have got to get their heads on straight and worry much less about Monday and Friday Night Football and worry and take proper actions to save their governments and themselves.

    These are my opinions.

  4. Judith Rogers says:

    I encourage EVERY CITIZEN to watch the Moyers & Company program titled “Surviving the New American Econony” – go to http://billmoyers.com/episode/full-show-surviving-the-new-american-economy/ It would be a good use of your time.

    Just remember every time your Gardner City Government is wanting to put you in further debt to take care of the thieves and all the while talking about how we have no money, that they are just putting you further in the hole and you, the voting citizens, are paying top dollar for these jaybirds to do this to you. And the same applies even more to that lowlife Brownback who makes it extremely clear who the Sam Hill he works for and the people are supporting and enabling him to do so.

    Every citizen should not be wanting or doing anything/everything to not make themselves “nothing people” who are people losing their jobs, unable to buy goods and therefore causing the economy to go even deeper into depths of despair

  5. Judith Rogers says:

    I hit the enter button in error on my above comment before I was finished, however, basically that upper 1% are eating the lunches, suppers and breakfasts of the remaining 99% here in America and citizens have allowed this financial rape to flourish by being armchair/recliner citizens. High price to pay.

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