All Gardner mayoral candidates were e-mailed questions last week, and all replied. Candidates are Randy Gregorcyk, Tory Roberts and Todd Winters, all incumbent council members.
The answers below are printed as received.
Provide brief information on yourself: education, employment, family, achievements, community groups, previous office (what you believe is important).
Tory Roberts: Gardner resident and homeowner for 18 years.  Working at Stouse since 1995, currently the Scheduling Manager.  Family is very important to me.  Current City Council member, City Council member 2013 – 2015, Planning Commission & Chairman 2009 – 2013 and 2016-2019.  Very involved in the community and giving back.  Current Officer in several organizations in Gardner – President Gardner Lions Club, Officer American Legion Auxiliary and Gardner PEO and member of the Gardner DAR Chapter.
Randy Gregorcyk: Happily married for 16yrs to Kara Gregorcyk & father to Emsley; we moved to Gardner just over 15 years ago. I am a Program Development Director supporting National Facility Management company in Roseville CA and office in downtown Gardner. I am an Eagle Scout (’91) and an avid sportsman who supports the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. Currently a City Council Member, Johnson County Fire Department #1 Board member – representing Gardner, a Rotarian and a member of Chamber of Commerce.
Todd Winters: Born and raised in Wichita Kansas. I attended Wichita State University for undergraduate work and then Cleveland Chiropractic School (in Kansas City.) I opened my office, Winters Chiropractic, in Gardner over 20 years ago. I am married with two children ages 9 and 10. I have been active in many areas of the community including: current board member and past chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club and past chair of the Festival on the Trails. I am currently the President of the City council with over 10 years served.
Do you believe that the path to bring developments (business, residential, industrial, etc.) to Gardner should always come with some type of offer of a tax break or incentive?  Why or why not?  Should city leadership take into account that at the end of the day, the cost shifts to others?
Todd Winters: No, I don’t believe new development should always come with incentives. However, there is often strong competition for good development. If, after a careful analysis by our finance team, bond counsel, planning commission, and council, the development brings a good return on investment for our community, I am ok with considering incentives to ensure they locate here.
Tory Roberts: I am in favor of incentives for the right development for our town.  Keeping small town charm, but adding well planned, well-suited development is important. This will help our quality of life for citizens and help the taxpayers. Citizens are footing most of the bill for the taxes and it would be beneficial if it shifted more to development paying for the taxes. We have many needs for infrastructure and the additional taxes from development would be helpful.
Randy Gregorcyk: Tax incentives are important tools to spur growth, however, the city of Gardner is well positioned to “lean down” such incentives, considering available land (to develop) is plentiful, coupled with recent annexation, investment (by the City) in infrastructure (water) and a growing community. The vision of Gardner is healthy, and growth is inevitable – smart growth (diversity of) should be our goal.
Gardner’s budget has doubled from $55K in 2011 to $131K in 2021, while the population has only increased from 19K to 23K. Is this appropriate?
Tory Roberts: I believe in minimizing the taxes while still providing the needed services and infrastructure needs for the citizens and businesses.  I think we should of course look for ways to lower taxes whenever possible.  We are spending the citizens money and we need to be financially and fiscally responsible.
Todd Winters: We strive to keep the budget lean while still providing outstanding services for our citizens. We have large expenses (water treatment expansion, the Justice center, etc.) that create increases in our budget. These types of investments are made to serve our immediate needs as well as projected population increases in the future. I would argue that, ultimately, the mill levy rate (property taxes,) that citizens pay is a better indicator of how we are managing our budget. Our city mill rate was reduced this year and continues to be one of the lower rates for a city of our size in Kansas.
Randy Gregorcyk: This trend has caught my attention in recent years, and have asked similar questions, as a Councilman, with that said, as Mayor, I will take a “business” approach to the City’s budget (taxpayer funded) and identify line items (i.e. 3rd party consulting fees) that don’t directly support the outcome of our City and challenge City staff to self-perform. Obviously, the cost of a mill has increased (approx. $246k) and Council must support a “budget-minded” operation.
How can the decisions that come out of city hall be more transparent?  Or do you think the right level of transparency currently exists today? Is it appropriate for officials to skirt the law?
Randy Gregorcyk: As an “active leader” I have always strived / supported transparent communication between elected officials and the community it is serving; this mindful action is paramount. Communication is key, as Mayor, I will work with / challenge the City Administrator and Public Information Officer to drive quality communication to our citizens and the business communities.  Just as I go door-to-door, during my campaign, I believe we need one-on-one communication with our stakeholder (citizens & business partners, alike) in Gardner & utilize (beyond Council meetings) the Chamber, Southwest JoCo Economic Development, County meetings and other groups that touch the above-mentioned and communicate clearly & effectively.
Tory Roberts: I think decisions from city hall should be 100% transparent.  I think improvement on transparency call always be the goal.  I think everyone should follow the rules.
Todd Winters: I believe that we are very transparent. We have open dialogue at our council meetings and encourage citizen input. On rare occasions, we utilize an “executive session” to discuss items that would bring liability to the city if discussed in public. Our city attorney advises us when those sessions are appropriate and is present during those time.
What is the state of affairs with the Airport Fund balance?  Did the Airport Fund pay back the loan from the Electric Fund?
Randy Gregorcyk: The Gardner municipal airport has indeed paid back the Electric fund – in full,\; keeping in mind, Gardner municipal airport is supported (largely) through Federal grant funding, that may not be realized until end-of-year.
Tory Roberts: The airport fund relies on many federal funds and various grants.  The city is always looking for ways to find other sources to fund the airport needs.  The Airport fund has fully repaid the loan from the Electric Fund.
Todd Winters: No answer.
Explain the need for the Price Cost Adjustment (PCA) applied to the monthly City of Gardner utility bill.  What benefit does this provide to the citizens? Last year 1,300 residents had bills more than doubled.
Todd Winters: The “Power” cost adjustment (PCA) is a sliding charge based on the cost Gardner Energy pays for energy. We estimate our cost to purchase, but many factors can affect how much we actually pay. The PCA helps to offset those fluctuations in our cost to buy energy and spreads it proportionally over all rate payers. The freezing temperatures this past February down South caused an astronomical increase in energy cost for a short time. Unfortunately, Gardner Energy (like all other electric companies) was hit with massive price increases and those costs are spread out amongst rate payers over the next year with the PCA. Electric bills, will be higher as a result until that cost is absorbed. I know that electric customers from other utilities are experiencing similar increases.
Tory Roberts: The PCA changes to cover the costs of buying energy.  The PCA was raised recently to cover the costs of the electric price surge in February.  This increase is averaged over 12 months and should go down.   I think the surplus in the Electric fund could have been used to offset some of the increase in February.  The surplus is a customer overpayment.  A rate study needs to be done to tackle to surplus and high rates.
Randy Gregorcyk: The PCA is a variable charge that changes every month to reimburse the City for the costs of buying energy. The actual electric rate assumes energy costs at a certain cost / amount and the PCA helps to cover the difference. It’s possible, that the energy costs less than rate assumption and the PCA goes negative. With the increase / spike in energy costs in February, the City had to pay for the energy and now the utility customers are paying it back (averaged over 12 months) through the PCA. The PCA should go back to a reasonable amount in March or April. Additionally, myself and another Councilman have asked that a RATE STUDY be performed, ensuring rates are accurate and cost effective to ratepayers; furthermore, the EUB fund, should be re-evaluated and reinvested into city infrastructure, versus raising taxes to fund project specific items.
How important do you believe it is to work with other government entities (cities, county, state, schools) and if so, would you facilitate inter-government cooperation in a transparent fashion? If not, why not?
Randy Gregorcyk: As mayor, I will continue to be a good neighbor / partner / communicator with Gardner Superintendent, Edgerton, Olathe and the Board of County Commissioners. Partnering with these entities on WIN-WIN metro / regional initiatives, that directly benefits our community (new services and local employment) is my goal, as your Mayor. Gardner, as discussed, is well positioned for growth, and our City is ready & nimble (fiscally and operationally) to meet such opportunities – our community is OPEN for BUSSINESS! In closing, as your Mayor, I will be an “active leader” leveraging the “regional relationships” and shared goals, on behalf of you – the community; remembering “we” are all neighbors – our kids play ball together & we shop at the same stores. Municipal governance represents the citizens and those elected MUST be transparent with such representation.
Tory Roberts: I think Gardner needs to work with neighboring communities and USD 231. Working together will benefit all involved. There will be upcoming annexation issues, upcoming shared road projects, the potential weigh station on I-35 and minimizing truck traffic. Working together with other metro communities will be very beneficial
Todd Winters: I think it is important. There are many mutual benefits to cooperating with other government entities.
Questions and answers from school board candidates will run in next week’s paper.