Danedri Thompson
[email protected]
City officials proposed a 2016 budget that maintains the current mill levy and existing utility rates for water, wastewater and electric.
Gardner Finance Director Laura Gourley said the 2016 proposed $17 million budget is structurally sound with strong reserves and includes more than $2.4 million in interest savings from recent debt refinancing.
Though the budget proposal maintains a flat mill rate, it would authorize council members to spend almost $5 million more than they are authorized to spend through the end of 2015 — $12.2 million.
Sales tax revenues are expected to bring additional money to the city, and property values are up by approximately 7 percent. However, city officials anticipate an increased amount of property tax delinquency payments, primarily related to benefit district taxes on a few properties that have not paid since 2008.
Gourley said the theme of the 2016 budget is growth by choice, not by chance. Several projects slated for the remainder of 2015 and in 2016 reflect that, she said. For example, the budget sets aside $75,000 to fund the city’s economic development partners, the Gardner Edgerton Chamber of Commerce and the Southwest Johnson County Economic Development Corporation (EDC). The chamber would receive $20,000 and the EDC would receive $55,000 in 2016.
At least two council members and one resident expressed concerns about the dollars set aside for the EDC.
One of the largest proposed expenditures in the 2016 budget, $250,000,  is a second phase of staffing merit increases. Gourley said that demonstrates that the council values its employees.
Other expenditures include $120,000 for a infrastructure analysis, $122,000 for four new police SUVs, and $50,000 to make improvements at the Gardner Senior Citizens Building.
Council members have approved the publication of the 2016 budget, which sets a maximum amount of expenditures, and the public will have an opportunity to weigh in on the budget during a public hearing on July 20. The public hearing will begin at 7 p.m. on July 20 at city hall.
Council members are expected to formally adopt a 2016 during an Aug. 3 city council meeting. Public entity must be adopted and forwarded to the county and state no later than Aug. 25, by state statute.