Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
A public hearing on the proposed 2017 city budget was held at the beginning of the July 18 city council meeting at Gardner City Hall. Council action included approving three board appointments and voting against using general obligation bonds to pay land purchase costs for a new police headquarters.
2017 Budget Hearing
Laura Gourley, finance director, gave a summary presentation of the proposed 2017 budget, followed by an invitation for public comment.
Council will vote on adopting the budget at the August 1 meeting. At the July 5 meeting the council heard a 2017 budget presentation which included a mill levy roll back, valuation increase, additional staff, promoting economic development and increasing infrastructure and property management.
According to the city’s proposed budget, the city’s net expenditures will increase from about $48,735,000 to $62,296,000, and the city’s mil levy will decrease from 29.455 to 20.544.
The proposed budget provides for the addition of three new police officers.
The police department has applied for a Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant to help pay for the third. COPS is a federal grant program from the US Department of Justice. The grant would require the new officer to be assigned to narcotics enforcement.
James Pruelling, police chief, described an increase in narcotics cases in Gardner.
“In 10 years before I got here, they did 2 narcotics search warrants. We did 3 last year, we’ve done 11 so far this year,” said Pruelling.
If the city does not get the COPS grant, council will likely consider hiring only two officers instead of three.
“I’m OK with two officers, I can see that in the budget. Three is a bit much, but if one is comped by the COPS grant, that’s good” said Lee Moore, council member, “…so what are the odds of getting that?” There was no answer to that.
Moore stated “…we’re just basically setting aside in the budget for three – doesn’t necessarily mean we have to fill all three.”
As a result of Gardner becoming part of Fire District #1, the city will no longer pay $1.4 million for contracted fire protection services. The proposed budget reduces the mill levy equivalent to the $1.4 million payment; however, the city will still see an overall revenue increase due to increased valuation.
City valuation increased 8.2 percent compared to last year’s increase of 7.4 percent, according to the council discussion form. In addition, a substantial special assessment was paid in 2016.
Sales Tax for Courthouse
A presentation was given on the proposed new county sales tax by Stephen M. Howe, Johnson County district attorney.
The purpose of the tax is to fund a new county courthouse and coroners facility in Olathe. It will be put before voters in November.
The current courthouse is aged and has many problems. The county says it would be less expensive to construct a new facility than to renovate and repair the old building.
Howe compared it to having an old car that requires increasing and more expensive repairs until you eventually decide it’s better to just replace it.
There will be a public vote on the $182 million for a new courthouse and a $22.5 coroner’s building.
The courthouse vote was approved 5-2, by the Johnson County Commissionerwith commissioner’s John Toplikar and Michael Ashcraft opposing.
The current courthouse was built in 1951 with additions in 1954, 1968 and 1975; if approved, the new court house would be about 283,000 square feet and have 28 courtrooms. The construction process would take about four years. Cost would include demolition of the current courthouse and work on a courtyard to replace it.
The proposed nine-story court house is north of the existing building and across Santa Fe in Olathe.
Property Purchase for Law Enforcement Center
At the June 20th meeting, council approved purchase of 15.25 acres at 167th and Moonlight for $664,290. This property is to be the site for a new police facility, municipal court and possibly other city operations.
Tonight, the council considered a resolution which would authorize the issuance of general obligation bonds to pay for the property.
Staff advised council that the use of general obligation bonds comes with stipulations on what the property may be used for.
Council was uncomfortable with that requirement and unanimously voted against the use of general obligation bonds.
Staff will seek alternative funding options for consideration at a later meeting.
Council authorized the mayor to reappoint Kevin King, and to appoint Adam Cox, to the Board of Zoning Appeals.
Blayne Camp was appointed to the Airport Advisory Board.
Executive Session
Prior to adjourning, council retreated to a twenty minute executive session to discuss the lawsuit relating to the officer involved shooting of March 2015.