The City Commission of Arkansas City asked city staff during a budget work session July 14 to generate a new proposed 2018 budget that it will consider July 18.

Specifically, the commissioners proposed reducing Cherokee Strip Land Rush Museum’s requested $100,000 to $75,000 and the Arkansas City Area Chamber of Commerce’s requested $20,000 to $10,000 — pending the chamber’s budget presentation during the July 18 meeting — to free up cash for other city initiatives.

One of those will be the inclusion of a 1-percent cost-of-living adjustment for all city employees, which is estimated to cost $76,797 ($57,252 in the General Fund).

City of Arkansas City logoCity Manager Nick Hernandez’s original recommendation for the museum was $54,500, which he said would cover all contractual and commodities expenses in 2018 as laid out in the museum’s budget.

But Commissioner Jay Warren said that was too steep of a reduction and asked for at least $65,000 to be set aside for the organization.

The draft budget presented to the commission at the work session would raise the mill levy by seven-tenths of a mill, to 70.233 mills, but this would not trigger the new property tax lid law because it is less than the rate of inflation. It remains to be seen what increase, if any, will be incurred by the changes requested July 14.

The commissioners also directed staff to begin looking into possible options for privatizing sanitation service in Arkansas City. Hernandez said city sanitation operations are inefficient and its recycling operations lose money, so before looking into the possibility of adding curbside recycling, he first wants to explore other options to save tax dollars.

If the commission were to eventually move forward with privatization, the city could receive an immediate infusion of cash from selling off its carts, dumpsters and trucks to a private company, as well as a likely percentage of any future profits through a franchise agreement. This could help to fund other critical projects.

Six current sanitation employees would be moved to the street and stormwater crews in the Public Services Division, which is down five workers, Hernandez said.

Commissioners also directed staff to begin identifying any excess parks and other properties that could be sold off, both to add those properties back onto the property tax rolls, possibly with brand-new housing to be built on them by developers, as well as to generate funds and budget dollars for Wilson and Paris parks.

Police department budget

The work session started with a half-hour presentation of the proposed Arkansas City Police Department budget for 2018 by Police Chief Dan Ward. He said the department’s budget is expected to increase slightly next year after years of coming in under budget due to perpetually being understaffed.

However, ACPD has been fully staffed since the beginning of this year and Ward said he anticipates expending most, if not all, of its budget authority in 2017.

The only significant way to reduce expenses next year, Ward said, would be to reduce staffing. Rather than subtract from patrol, he would choose to eliminate the school resource officer positions, if so directed by the commission. But he doesn’t want to do that, due to the impact on DARE Camp and National Night Out.

Assuming the department stays fully staffed, Ward said every patrol will have four to five officers, plus a couple of extra officers who can “float” on a swing shift.

The 2018 budget also includes $10,000 for the final upgrades for the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) process. Ward said that by the end of 2018, ACPD will be one of just eight CALEA-accredited agencies in the state of Kansas — and the first such in Cowley County.

The budget also includes $60,000 for roof and fascia replacement at the police department building, located at 117 W. Central Ave., and $245,500 for equipment replacement purchases — seven in-car computers, three patrol sport utility vehicles, three in-car and four body-worn cameras, three radios, and four Tasers.

Capital Improvement Plan

Hernandez presented the 2018 Capital Improvement Plan, which was evaluated and scored earlier this year by the first-ever CIP Committee of citizens and staff.

The scores of projects ranged from a low of 3.62 for a low-water crossing over the C Street Canal, to provide public access to McFarland Pond, to 7.98 for Summit Street reconstruction from Kansas Avenue to Radio Lane, a huge $4 million project that Hernandez said has been discussed for more than 20 years.

He recommended approving the CIP as recommended by the committee, with the following changes:

  • Budgeting up to $75,000 of city funds to pay for a full-blown engineering and landscape design for Wilson Park, minus the events center and library facility, which would allow for the other phases of the master plan project to continue at their own pace. Hernandez said his goal remains to raise private funds to pay for all of this, but he wants money set aside just in case, so the city can take advantage of all of the promised V.J. Wilkins Foundation matching funds.
  • Looking into the possibility of issuing debt to fund the Summit Street reconstruction. The city has two other bond issues scheduled to be paid off in the next two years, totaling about $500,000 annually in payments. Hernandez thinks that money needs to go to other projects, especially with rates still relatively low.
  • Expanding the scope of a $50,000 master plan study of Paris Park Pool to include the future of Paris Park, the Agri-Business Building and the skate park.
  • Showing the carryover of funds from previous years for the pieces of the 2016 water line replacement project that have yet to be completed. Public Works Director Eric Broce said Valley Road is done now, but work on the more complex Brad Meek Addition and Highland Drive segments might bleed into 2018.

The second-biggest CIP expenditure in the 2018 budget would be a Phase I design-build upgrade for the Wastewater Treatment Facility, budgeted at $2.25 million, which would lead into an estimated $20 million Phase II design-bid-build upgrade starting in 2019. The upgrade is due to federal and state requirements.

There currently is between $3 and $3.5 million in unencumbered cash in the Sewer Fund, Hernandez said, allowing Phase I to be paid for without issuing debt.

Hernandez and Broce said they think that Phase II can be broken into multiple phases itself, as long as the city is moving forward, so the total cost could be less.

A $101,500 coating of the new Radio Lane asphalt with HA-5 material, which is estimated to extend its life by three years, would be dependent on cash being available toward the end of 2018, Hernandez said.

Without a dedicated source of street funding, such as another sales tax, that also will be true in future years.