Getting into nitty gritty, Fairway committee agrees on $164K in budget reductions

Fairway mayor Jerry Wiley

With its budget deadline looming and public reaction to a proposed 68 percent hike in the property tax rate starting to stream in, the Fairway finance committee on Thursday voted on actions that would cut nearly $164,000 in expenses from its 2011 budget. The vast majority of the cost cutting came from a decision to refinance the debt on the GO bonds the city issued in 2008; by refinancing the debt, the city will save just over $151,000 in 2011, though it will incur increased debt expenses over the long run.

Additionally, the committee agreed to:

  • cut $6,000 from the Parks and Recreation department’s concerts and programming budget
  • reduce the publication of the Focus on Fairway newsletter from four times a year to three times a year and use black and white printing instead of color, saving a total of $2,500
  • eliminate the purchase of all food and soft drinks for meetings, saving a total of $1,100
  • cut the city’s contributions to a number of Johnson County programs that the committee felt were underutilized by Fairway citizens, including the county’s Minor Home Repair and Utility Assistance programs. The cuts will results in $3,300 in savings.

With all of the expense reductions, the city would be able to reduce the 2011 property tax rate from 21.619 mills — the number published in the 2011 proposed budget — to 19.45 mills. The 2010 mill levy was 12.853.

A mill rate of 19.45 would mean the average Fairway homeowner’s tax bill for 2011 would come in at approximately $699, and increase of $240, or 47 percent, over the $459 paid in 2010.

Members of the committee held lengthy discussions over how to balance residents’ desire to maintain city services with their opposition to such a sizeable tax increase. Mayor Jerry Wiley told the committee he felt every expenditure needed to be scrutinized.

“The type of feedback I’m getting right now is that we are going to get big push back, big resistance, if we raise the taxes — and we have got to prepare ourselves for the public reaction we are going to get,” Wiley said.