Mission looks to property tax hike, stormwater fee increase to close budget gaps in 2016

Street maintenance will be preserved in the budget by raising the property tax to cover a loss of street funds.
Street maintenance will be preserved in the budget by raising the property tax to cover a loss of street funds.

Mission will take another pass at a city budget that will include raising revenue both in stormwater fees and in the property tax to cover projected shortfalls in the 2016 budget.

The projected increase in property tax is planned at seven mills in addition to the 11.354 mills that the city currently assesses. The increased property tax, though, is designed to replace the loss of nearly $800,000 in the street maintenance fund as the result of the recent Kansas Court of Appeals ruling that declared the city’s Transportation Utility Fee (TUF) to be illegal.

“This is not an expense issue after what we’ve done in the last few years (cutting expenses),” said Councilor Dave Shepard, “it is a revenue issue.” Shepard the city needs to maintain services and not put future councils in a worse position by not keeping up with repairs. “I don’t want to back off the street program,” he said.

“It’s important to the people,” Councilor Pat Quinn said of the street maintenance. “Nobody wants to charge more taxes, but you have to step up when you want to get things paid for.”

“I would rather see you take it out of the general fund,” Councilor Jennifer Cowdry said. “We are a very modest income city. We are not Fairway. I want to take it out of the general fund rather than increase taxes. I’m a purist.”

With no TUF fee being assessed in 2016, each single-family homeowner will see a $72 TUF charge eliminated from the tax statement. If the proposal is adopted by the council, that fee will be replaced with the property tax charges that will increase the total cost to a $150,000 home by 18 percent or about $48 per year. Most businesses will see a decrease in their combined bill.

A draft budget the council discussed last week – before the court ruling – held the property tax level, but showed a shortfall in the stormwater fund of about $500,000. With the property tax increase to cover the TUF, part of the stormwater shortfall would be covered by the higher stormwater fee and a temporary reduction in fund balances until the Gateway begins paying its stormwater assessment.

A remaining shortage of about $200,000 for 2016 would be covered by reductions in the general fund. In the meantime, the city also will talk about a potential sales tax increase of one-quarter cent. “I definitely think we should put a sales tax up for a vote,” Mayor Steve Schowengerdt said. A sales tax vote could not be implemented in time for the 2016 cycle.

The increase in the stormwater fee would cost a single-family homeowner an extra $24 per year. The stormwater increase suggested by the council is $2 per month on each ERU (Equivalent Residential Unit), the measure of impervious surface. A single-family residence now pays $23 per month. Businesses with larger impervious surfaces – buildings or parking lots – are assessed at more units but the cost per unit is standard.

The council will hold a public forum on the budget before its regular council meeting next week.