April 17, 2014

Utility board raises franchise fee to give employees pay raise

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com

Members of the electric utility board agreed to inject $260,000 into the city of Gardner’s budget next year. At a special meeting, the board members approved a measure that would increase the city franchise fee from 5 percent to 7 percent.

According to Bill Krawczyk, Electric Utility Director, the fee increase would not lead to a utility rate increase for consumers. It will, however, slow the speed at which the utility board increases its own reserves.

Unlike other electric utilities, franchise fees, funds that typically go from utilities to municipalities — in Gardner are included in the rates.

The proposal board members approved Nov. 15 would increase the franchise fee from 5 percent to 7 percent in 2011, but the increase would dissipate over time and the fee would return to 5 percent in 2015.

“I can’t promise that it’s going to go away, but I can promise you that the proposal we put before the board was to start in 2011 and end it in 2015,” Krawczyk said.

Utility board members hoped the fee increase would help the city council give employee raises next year.

“We put a proposal in front of the board and this was a good faith effort on the part of Gardner Energy to try to help the city through this economic crisis,” he explained.

The city has a budget shortfall, and most employees have not received salary increases since 2008. They have, however, had at least one bonus.
Krawczyk said city employees have also had their pension plans reduced by 75 percent and had layoffs.

“Gardner Electric has had a lot of discussion about how we can assist with this,” he said.

Ryan Beasley was the only electric board member who opposed the proposal.

“My main reason was because we couldn’t make sure that the money went towards the employees,” he said. “We can give it to the city, but they can do whatever they want with that money. If we did it, I wanted to make sure the city employees get the money. But it’s not our say in what the city council does.”

Krawczyk said he works closely with many city employees. His main concern is that there are key people – especially some of the director-level employees – that are not paid well for their experience.

“I believe where we’re headed is if we lose those employees, the level of service we provide will go down,” he said. “I believe the residents will be very unhappy.”

Utility board members set a goal not to increase rates for five years when the utility split from Gardner in 2008. To date, residents have not seen a rate increase.

“In the meantime, our competition, they’re asking for rate increases,” he said.
They’re increasing fees and rates, in part, due to mandates for renewable energy and wind power that municipal utilities aren’t required to meet, Krawcyzk said.

The Gardner board came up with the idea to increase franchise fees to help the city after researching a similar plan in Kansas City, Kan., he explained.

Although there is a philosophical school of thought that says utility funding and reserves should not be used to subsidize city budgets, Krawcyzk said the board didn’t approve a plan to do that.

“I don’t think it is. This is not a long term subsidy,” he said.

The electric board’s proposal will have to be approved by the Gardner City Council. Council members will then decide how the addition to the city’s budget will be used.

Comments

  1. This may end up being a non-issue but it seems to me that the City should have had this discussion when the budgets were being discussed.

    I emailed the City back in August regarding this specific issue. My response from Councilwoman Harrison and then confirmed by Fairburn was that they could not do this without being subject to rate lawsuits and that the City could not legally transfer Reserve funds.

    If it so that they could have done this they should have transferred the more than $500k that the budget shortfall was so that the taxes of the residents of Gardner did not have to go up.

  2. Chris Morrow says:

    Why exactly are the wages of City employees the concern of the Electric Utility Board? I’m just curious.

  3. Gardner already overpays for electricity; they resell from another utility and still profit. This is a sneaky back door increase. Why was decision done at a “special” meeting, and why wasn’t the public notified of this information? And why is the utility concerned with Gardner city employees?

  4. I heard the electric company has meetings like the councel. Has anyone gone to any of them?

  5. I was at the meeting last night and yes they have meetings every week.

    Basically what is happening is that the either the City went to the Electric Board or, there is some known protocol, that is saying that the Electric employees should not get a pay increase if the City employees are not getting an increase.

    If it is the first case then City is strong arming the EU to either commit to taking money from the reserve or the City is playing unfairly since the EU acts separately from the City. Since the EU acts independently any meddling from the City in regards to how the Electric Utility operates is counter productive and unfair to the EU since they operate their finances commendably and the City does not.

    If it is the second instance and the EU is not giving raises because they have some agreement with the City then they should remove the officers because they are not operating the EU as commissioned. Per the Utility Charter the EU operates completely separate from the City so that they can make sound decisions the positively affect the bottom line. Evidently there were problems before with the City having too much control over the Electric utility and they were making poor decisions because of it.

  6. If the electricity in Gardner were free you’d still think you were overpaying.

    As for information on meeting times it is posted on the Gardner City Website

    http://www.gardnerkansas.gov/event/day/2010/11/15/

    You can even get a copy of the agendas before the meeting so you can know whether or not you should attend.

    http://www.gardnerkansas.gov/electric_utility_board/

    Don’t get upset after the fact because you weren’t paying attention. There are rules and laws that are to be followed. People can be fined, fired, or put in jail when they aren’t followed. Put your smoking gun away and find the facts out before you spout things off.

    That being said, do you really know where Gardner Energy gets their electricity?

  7. Chris Morrow says:

    It seems to me that the Electric Utility Board is concerning itself with matters not relating to Gardner Electric. It appears to this oberver that they are operating outside the parameters for which they were created. From the City of Gardner website:

    “The Electric Utility Board is a voluntary group of citizens who are responsible for the planning, development, production, purchase, transmission and distribution of all electricity by the City.”

    “The Board shall have exclusive jurisdiction, control and policy making responsibility of the electric utility of the City and its operations and facilities.”

    “The Board shall have all powers and duties possessed by the City to construct, acquire, expand and operate the utility and to do any and all acts or things that are necessary, convenient or desirable in order to operate, maintain, enlarge, extend, preserve and promote an orderly economic and business-like administration of the utility.”

    “The Board shall operate as a division of City government.”

    My question is, why are they taking action in such a manner?

  8. Chris, I think you know the answer to your last question…………..

  9. Ouch! My apparent twin is taking potshots at me! Did I strike a nerve? Where there is smoke there’s usually fire? But as to a smoking gun, your sour grapes does make me question what is really going on.

  10. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:

    Here is what I understand from reading this morning the Gardner City Ordinance 2296, passed by the Governing Body on November 17, 2008, which established the Electric Utility Board to operate as a division of city government.

    Board members are volunteers who serve without compensation and are nominated by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council. The Board appoints and sets the salary for the Director, who is responsible for the overall management of the Utility. The Director serves at the pleasure of the Board and is compensated with a salary schedule currently identical to the Directors of Public Works and Public Safety.

    All employees of the Electric Utility Board are appointed and removed by the Director. All employees of the Board are City of Gardner employees and entitled to the same rights and benefits of the City of Gardner as defined in the City’s Personnel Policies and Procedures Manual.

    The Electric Utility Board establishes fair and competitive rates sufficient to cover its operations, service its debts and maintain a reserve fund.

    Now here is where the Ordinance becomes a bit ambiguous to me. There is a provision for joint operations with the City whereby the “Board and the City Council may enter into agreements with each other to perform services on behalf of the other or to share services and resources,” as long as it results in no “undo harm to the City.” In addition, “Any shared utility/City funds or services shall be accounted for directly and explicitly.”

    I am no expert by any means on the operations of municipal government, so I am wondering if that provision permits what the Utility has proposed.

  11. Kellogg, why don’t you just give your OPINION rather than this continual Drovetta fed crap that makes him and others sound like they are responsible, well intentioned public servants which they are not in my opinion…….but hey, you have the right to do whatever you want and have your opinion as we all do………just tell me you support this wheeling and dealing and be done with it……..I would have a lot more respect for you if you did that rather than being a party and supporter of this type of government……….

  12. GardnerPride says:

    I find Mr. Kellogg’s post to be every informative and valuable. Unlike most here, he deals in facts and provides links and such to his information. It’s easy to spew opinions and hate speech, it takes effort to work to inform the public in a respectful way which I very much appreciate.

  13. And I say you are what you support and whether you go along with the wheeling and dealing…………FACTS are tremendously important but this issue goes beyond facts…….you need to be aware of whether you will allow yourself to be maniupulated once again for the wants and needs of others and WHAT is the true MOTIVATION……….it takes some critical and independent thinking and not being allowed to be fed propaganda and rhetoric of those who want to continue to wheel and deal as they see fit while the people are not even at the table as usual……the people’s role is that of an ATM machine……….I don’t know how much more clear that has to be made for you ……..that is my opinion but all citizens are entitled to their opinions………..facts are important and invaluable but recognizing lies and/or manipulation is also most important if you ever hope to have decent government….

  14. Know how to read your property tax bill that was recently mailed to you. Always, always, look at that mill levy and compare it to last year’s mill levy – that is the key to know how your taxing entities are operating. Don’t just look at the dollars – you also need to take into consideration the appraised value of your property and how it has perhaps changed in the past year. Another good way to check to see what is happening to you is to take last year’s appraised value and compute your 2010 taxes and then compare the cost to the 2009 tax bill – you will be able to better compare apples to apples that way. If you don’t know how to compute your tax bill, then call me or your Treasurer’s Office at 913-715-2600 – both entities will be more than happy to help you and don’t be embarrassed for asking for help – your tax dollars should be there to help you.

    My bill indicates the only taxing entity that did NOT increase their mill levy was the state of Kansas but boy did they get in your pocket with that sales tax increase – that one broke the record too – they too took the sneaky way of giving you a huge tax increase but want to hide it if they can get away with it.

    The biggest percentage of increase on my bill was for the city of Gardner which increased 20.2% and the next highest one was 231 Unified with a 1.2% increase – do you think maybe your city gave you the biggest tax increase in history for years and years???? Well, you can think that because it is a fact and now they want to stick you with a new utility for stormwater costs on private property it appears which I believe is illegal and this latest deal with the Electric Board should tell you the City Hall Gang will do whatever is necessary to get money from you -the wheeling and dealing continues. They wheeled and dealed on that fire protection issue also in my opinion – wait until you get that bill in about 2014 or 2015 from Jo. Co. Fire Dist. 1 and see what their mill levy is. The highest city mill levy in Jo. Co. is for Edgerton with a levy of 42.880, next is part of Spring Hill at 39.295 and then here comes Gardner in at 31.119 – that City Hall Gang does not want that mill levy to go any higher which makes it very clear as to how much it is costing you and their irresponsible management – they will come in the back door by this stormwater utility, this Electric Board franchise fee increase and that fire protection deal and many others. This type of manipulation and not being actually forthcoming gets the hair on the back of neck to stand up and I would think it would do the same for any informed and educated Gardner citizen.

    Here are the mill levy increases by taxing entities:

    Jo. Co. 17.748, up from 17.716
    Community College 8.799, up from 8.784
    Jo. Co. Parks 2.35, up from 2.346
    City of Gardner 3l.119, up from 24.606
    231 Unifed 29.233, up from 27.441
    231 Bond 32.303, up from 31.098
    Jo. County Library 3.158, up from 3.151

    You think those Gardner appointed boards and council and administrative employees are looking out for your interests or do you think they are having to come up with money any way they can fanagle to cover for the huge debt they have helped bring to the people of Gardner thru fiscal irresponsibility, always taking care of the special interests instead of their own people and continuing to spend as they please.

    You might want to think about all of this before you go into that voting booth the next time or determine what and who you will support throughout the year and years.

  15. I wanted to bring you a copy of Coleman’s tax bill for 2010. Keep in mind with the pay-in-lieu agreement approved by the city of Gardner elected officials, the total amount of half of the taxes or $625,011.19 will be going into the checking account of the developer/owner of this property rather than to the citizens mostly in Jo. County but also across the state of Kansas and that will go on for 10 years or perhaps longer if another sweet deal is approved in the future. Please note the huge loss of school tax dollars – that lawsuit USD 231 School Dist. is involved in suing the people for more money would not be happening if the legal blackmail game was not being allowed. These thieves not only get available financing (which is hard to get now on the open commerical market) and a low financing rate with the people providing that for them – they then don’t want to pay their full taxes and in some instances, don’t even want to pay one cent of taxes plus not paying sales tax dollars in some instances on equipment purchases, they get tax credits, etc., etc. The total taxes of $1,250,022.38 and more should be going to the citizens for the needs of the community, area and the state in my opinion and I don’t need to be taking care of the bloodsuckers in addition to all of the infrastructure costs they generate. I hope all of you also fully understand what is going to happen to tax revenue with respect to those Allen Group warehouses – you will be losing 75% (Drovetta and his cult would have given 85%) of that tax revenue for ten years plus infrastructure costs, medical costs up the whazoo from now until eternity, loss of your health, etc. Now somebody tell me again what a good deal all of this is for citizens – in my opinion, as I have said before, it is economic raping, not economic development.

    THE ACCOUNT DETAILS AND TAX BILL ARE UPDATED NIGHTLY.
    INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY-THIS IS NOT A TAX BILL

    REAL ESTATE DETAIL
    Property Number: CP64000000 0001
    Bill Number: 11102514540
    Location: 17150 MERCURY ST
    Tax District: 0003
    Half Tax: $312,505.60
    Full Tax: $625,011.19

    TAX YEAR AMOUNT PAID HALF DUE FULL DUE INTEREST DUE FEES DUE
    2010 $0.00 $312,505.60 $625,011.19 $0.00 $0.00

    MILL LEVY
    Tax Authority Rate Tax Amount
    STATE OF KS 1.5000 6,412.13
    JOHNSON CO 17.7480 75,868.26
    COMM CLGE 8.7990 37,613.53
    JO CO PARK 2.3500 10,045.66
    GARDNER CITY 31.1190 133,025.94
    231 UNIFIED 29.2330 124,963.76
    231 SCH GEN 20.0000 85,495.00
    231 BOND 32.3030 138,087.25
    JO CO LIB 3.1580 13,499.66

    This is just for ONE WAREHOUSE which carries an appraisal amount that only comes in at around $34 Million and yet the citizens approved $52 Million for industrial revenue bonds for this project – to me we should be getting tax revenue on the full $52 Million, not on $17 Million or perhaps a little more on the small amount they possibly are paying on business personal property – the citizens lose and lose and lose and lose due to so-called representatives who do not work for the people – that is my opinion.

    I hope it becomes more apparent to you every day, you are taking care of every entity but yourself and the worthless politicians play their games and try to hide the truth from you in more ways than one and on one issue after another – that is my opinion.

    Citizens will continue to see an ever bigger tax bill from every taxing entity and at every level if they continue to condone and support this empire building for the special interests – the choice is yours.

Comments do not necessarily reflect those of The Gardner News, or staff. By posting, commentators assume all liability. Please contact webmaster to report comments that infringe on copyrights, or are of a profane or libelous nature. Webmaster reserves the right to edit or remove content deemed offensive.


 

Speak Your Mind