Commissioners Want Lower Budget

By Jon A. Brake

It has been a long time coming. The Manhattan City Commission wants a lower budget.

Commissioners Mark Taussig, Brad Everett and Ed Klimek told the City staff at Tuesday night's work session that they did not want to raise taxes by four mills.

Bernie Hayen should have been a politician, he is not but, he could have been. Hayen the City Director of Finance was able to agree with Mayor Bruce Snead and Commissioner Taussig in the same paragraph.

That is hard to do, Snead wants to spend money and Taussig wants to save money. In all it was a very good meeting for the citizens of Manhattan.

Taussig started with a very good question: "Maybe I missed it, but can you explain this to me? We are cutting the budget by $3 million but we are raising the mill rate by four mills?"

Hayen explained the budget was going to drop from $59 million in 2001 to $56.1 by consolidation of funds. Now six Departments are funded by Special Revenue Funds and when the Funds are transferred the State of Kansas requires the amount be shown twice. By moving the Airport, Animal Shelter, Special Sunset Zoo, City/University Projects, Recreation and the Mall Rental Payments Funds to the General Fund the City will eliminate almost $3 million in double accounting figures.

Some watching the meeting and some reporting thought Taussig had a novel idea to "pay as you go." This idea was sold to the 1985 City Commission and they increased the City Water and Sewer rates by 100% over four years. The City was bring in so much money that they dropped the increase for the fourth year. But, in 1989 when they financed a large water treatment project they did not touch the money in saving, they bonded the debt. In 1992 the Free Press ran a story that the City had $9 million in a secret Water Account and $3 million in a secret Sewer Account and three out of the five City Commissioners did not know of the extra money. Two years later the money was gone.

Hayen has some strange and wonderful ideas. He would like to have a Consolidation of Funds, Reallocation of Sales Tax Fund; Elimination of revised budgets; Establish new reserve funds and have a Leaner and more responsive CIP.

And the biggest change suggested by Hayen was in the Management of City Debt. He said he would Present a debt issuance and management policy to the City Commission later this fall for adoption. He would Test each new general obligation bond issue against existing debt.

It was a good meeting - for the citizens.