There was some frank discussion during a city budget work session — especially when the eyes were turned to Grand Central, which the city gives funds to an annual basis.
The center requested its standard allocation for the 2018 budget, $15,000. It also requested an additional $10,000.
However, the operations and future of the center were called into question.
“In my opinion, they are going to have to get out of that building,” said Bob Myers, city manager. “ … I see no way in the wold that they could stay there. … They are still going to live and die on whether their HVAC system goes out in that building.”
Located in the 100 block of East Sixth and once called the Newton Senior Center, the organization has started fund-raising to deal with the air conditioning system. Representatives of the center approached the Newton Recreation Commission last week to begin talks of how those two organizations can work together — namely in the area of programs.
“Waiting to see how they work with the rec the next few months will be very telling,” said commissioner Kathy Valentine.
Other requests the commission considered included $40,000 for Health Ministries, $20,000 for downtown promotions with the Newton Area Chamber of Commerce, $10,000 in additional funding for the Newton Area Chamber of Commerce and $10,000 for the Harvey County Free Fair for a fireworks display.
“This leads us to a discussion of how much do we value these contributions to other agencies, and are we willing to levy taxes for that,” Meyers said.
The commission reached a consensus to not fund the fireworks show, and to investigate the additional chamber funding and how it may work with the Harvey County Economic Development Council before releasing those funds.
In the case of the Senior Center, consensus was to grant the $15,000, but with strings attached.
“By January 1 they need a plan,” said commissioner Leroy Koehn. “They need a business plan to work.”
The mill levy
There was a lot of ground to cover during a budget work session by the Newton City Commission Tuesday, though at the end of that session there is an almost final number for tax payers — the budget will include a 3.043 mill increase if passed as agreed.
That increase is in the face of a Kansas Legislature mandated property tax lid that capped the increase at about 1.7 mills to the general fund. Newton, however, will move funds around and levy taxes in an exempted fund to get to the final budget number.
“You are doing some accounting gimmicks,” said commissioner Leroy Kohen. “Is that what they intended?'
“Probably not,” answered Bob Meyers, city manager.
Much of the increase in the budget will be in the Bond and Interest funds, an exempt fund. By making increases there, the city is then clearing funds for use from sales tax collections.
Much of those sales tax funds would be used for allocations to outside entities including Grand Central, the Newton Area Chamber of Commerce and Health Ministries.
The budget contains denial of a cost of living increase to wages for all city employees, the second time in as many years that has been done. It does include merit raises for employees who are not at the top of their salary scale.
What comes next
The commission will be presented with a budget document at a work session, and again at its next meeting July 25. At that time the commission can approve the budget for publication.
Once published, the commission can adjust the budget downward but can not levy more taxes that is published in The Newton Kansan.
In other business the commission:
• Recognized Chisholm Middle School Students recognized by the Duke University Talent Identification Program. Those recognized included Maddie Duncan, Clayton Kaufman, Cody Headings, Cody Eye and Andrew Barron.
• Received a recap of July 4 activities. The Newton Fire/EMS department responded to two fires and one critical injury. Newton Police saw an increase in calls, with 39 fireworks complaints — 11 reports on July 5 after legal discharge ended.
• Discussed prospective provisions of a right of way ordinance.
• Received an update on a new state law creating inspection and licensing requirements for amusement park rides that has forced the closure of some municipal water slides. Newton's slide, at least as defined by the city legal department, does not require a license and inspection as an amusement park ride. A full story on this appeared in the Saturday edition of the Newton Kansan.
• Reviewed changes to the Kansas Open Meetings Act. The act made changes to how entities enter into an executive session — now requiring a subject and justification for an executive session prior to entering the session.
• Learned that city staff has sent out letters to organizations that have created events and ask for city services as a part of the event — like the use of power, picnic tables, temporary fencing and water — to notify them of a meeting at 5:30 July 20 to discuss a new policy that may require the payment of fees for those services.