City Manager Nick Hernandez provided an interactive presentation to more than 50 Arkansas City business people and residents on Jan. 19.

Nick Hernandez quizzes audience


The “State of the City” presentation took place at Cowley College’s Wright Room during a luncheon organized by the Arkansas City Area Chamber of Commerce.

Hernandez focused mainly on the City of Arkansas City’s 2016 budget and how the city is financed through various sources of revenue.

He asked several “quiz” questions of the audience before presenting the relevant information in the form of answers, along with additional related facts.

For instance, he asked those in attendance to guess how many miles of roadway the city has to maintain annually.

They were given four choices — 50, 100, 200 or 500 miles. “The answer is … 100 miles,” Hernandez said.

He also explained why street projects are so expensive: The cost of a mill and overlay for 1 mile of paved roadway is $850,000 — for just one lane. That cost is multiplied by four for most streets.

South of Kansas Avenue, Summit Street is nearly six lanes wide, although only four lanes are marked for travel. The other two are used as parking lanes by area residents.

The cost of repaving just 1 mile of Summit Street, at its widest point, thus would be around $5 million.

To provide a sobering comparison, the Arkansas City Police and Fire-EMS departments have an annual combined budget of $5.4 million.

These two budgets represent more than half of the total operating budget of the city. But the city only receives $2.5 million per year in total property tax revenues, which Hernandez said shows how efficient city operations are at finding other sources of revenue to fund them, rather than relying on an increase in property taxes that many already say are too high.

But, Hernandez pointed out, the city only receives 25 percent of a resident’s total property tax bill for its general operations. Only 11 percent of the 9.25-percent sales tax goes to city operations, and that entire cent of sales tax is dedicated solely to police, fire and EMS functions.

Hernandez also provided a glimpse at how the 2016 budget changed from when the commission set the budget in 2015 to how the year actually ended. More than $1 million had to be cut from various departmental budgets to account for the pair of loans extended to South Central Kansas Medical Center to make its bond payments.

Another piece of the city he reviewed was the cost and production of water. “We actually treated last year … 1.2 billion gallons of water,” Hernandez said. “Creekstone used 40 percent of our water.”

To give a visual reference, Hernandez drew attention to the new clearwell located on West Madison Avenue.

“That holds 1.5 million gallons of water. Creekstone can empty that once a day, by themselves,” Hernandez said.

The clearwell is designed to be filled two times each day to keep up with the demand for water in Arkansas City.

“In 2011, Creekstone was paying one-fifth (the cost of water that all other users, on average, pay),” Hernandez said.

That rate recently was raised by the City Commission to just one-third the average cost of water paid by all other users, including residents, KanPak and Sumner County Rural Water District No. 4.

The average citizen pays approximately $0.008 (or 0.8 cent) per gallon, while Creekstone Farms Premium Beef will pay an average of $0.003 (or 0.3 cent) per gallon.


A story in Monday’s e-edition, “Hernandez quizzes audience members on financial facts during luncheon,” quoted City Manager Nick Hernandez as saying the cost of a mill and overlay for one lane-mile of paved roadway is $850,000. That actually is the cost of total reconstruction for one lane-mile. A mill and overlay is only $125,000 per lane-mile. Thus, a mill and overlay of 1 mile of Summit Street at its widest point would be $750,000, not $5 million.

State of the City Video

To see the entire presentation, click on the video below: