Merriam Drainage District approves increased mill levy for 2021 budget

The Merriam Drainage District voted to increase its mill levy rate by .077 mills during a virtual meeting on Monday.

The Merriam Drainage District during last week’s budget hearing approved a .077 increase to its mill levy for the 2021 budget. 

The district’s 2020 mill levy sat at 1.7 mills, and the increased rate brings it to 1.777, according to members of the drainage district. Treasurer Sam Matier said the way he understood the budget, a $12,000 cut would bring the drainage district back to its 2020 mill levy rate.

“I think there’s some ways to [cut the $12,000],” Matier said. “I think it’s important to do it for our taxpayers. I think there’s enough trauma going on today with COVID and other government organizations raising taxes, I would like to see us keep ours the same.” 

Matier said the district has only spent $18,000 of it’s $114,000 2020 budget, and the district could afford the $12,000 cut for next year’s budget. He suggested the district slash the 20% contingencies on each project to 18% or 15%, or cut back on the $80,000 allocated for tree clearing. 

Chairman Eric Jackson said he thinks .077 is a “very slight increase,” though he was open to the idea of keeping the mill levy rate flat. Secretary Gerald Becker said he thinks the district has deferred necessary maintenance like tree clearing long enough, and he supports the budget as proposed — including the “very slight increase.” 

The district’s attorney Jim Orr also weighed in on the mill levy rate, and said while it’s not easy to predict what will happen next year, it would be wise to give themselves a little bit of leeway in case things come up. Jackson and Becker both agreed with Orr, and Becker said the proposed increase amounts to about $1 per person for the city of Merriam. 

“We have to keep in mind we perform a vital and necessary service, and we have prepared in our budget to provide that throughout the next year,” Becker said. 

Matier disagreed and said he would still like to see the budget cut by $12,000. The district called for public comment though no members of the public were present during the meeting. 

Budget documents obtained via Kansas Open Records Act request shows the Merriam Drainage District’s tax levy amount in 2020 at $211,380. The drainage district approved the 2021 budget and mill levy increase, with Matier voting against it.