It was standing room only at the Newton City Commission meeting Tuesday night in Newton City Hall.
And the bulk of the city residents at the meeting had a message to deliver: don’t raise taxes.
“We are here tonight to let you know that we are not in favor of raising taxes,” said businessman Rod Nicholson.
He delivered a three-and-a-half page speech to the commission during the public comment section of the meeting, a spokesman for much of the crowd.
He was responding directly to an article in The Newton Kansan published June 28, where commissioners were quoted as saying citizens would be willing to pay higher taxes rather than cut police, fire/EMS and street services to make up a possible shortfall in the city budget.
Nicholson quoted statistics from the 2009 city audit and reports, showing that the amount of debt carried by the city has grown since 2003 — a 244 percent increase according to his calculation based on the 2009 audit.
He pointed to an expanded city employee work force — a 20 percent increase during the period.
Nicholson also spoke of the increase in water and sewer fees of recent years, telling the commission those increases have created hardships for Newton residents.
“It appears that you are trying to increase egg production by strangling the chicken,” Nicholson said.
In other business the commission:
• Approved the 2012 for publication. The approval is not a final approval of the budget. The city will publish, under Kansas statute, a “not-to-exceed” budget in the Newton Kansan Friday. The published budget sets maximums that the city can spend. A public hearing will be Aug. 9 prior to final passage of the 2012 budget.
• Approved the rezoning of a tract of land to Planned Unite Development on Southwest 14th. The rezoning will allow Asbury Park to develop the property.
• Approved the rezoning of 2410 and 2412 North Anderson from a general business district to multi-family dwelling.
• Authorized a water booster pump station at SW 12th and Spencer to serve the Kansas Logistics Park and Newton City/County Airport. Bid opening for the project is scheduled for 10 a.m. Aug. 18. The budget for the project is $811,000.
• Approved an engineering agreement PEC for engineering updates and renovations for the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Design is expected to be completed in 2013 with construction in 2013-14.
• Tabled the master plan for the Public Building Commission until the Newton City Commission can meet with the Newton Recreation Commission to discuss the plan.
• Approved the acceptance of a grant of $11,789 from the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program to purchase new camera equipment for the Newton Police Department.