Butler County Times Gazette
  • Excess sales tax dollars cause disagreement on use

  • A recommendation for use of the excess sales tax dollars from last year
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  • A recommendation for use of the excess sales tax dollars from last year brought about a lot of discussion and disagreement among the El Dorado City Commission Monday evening.
    Ryan Murry, from the Sales Tax Advisory Committee, presented their recommendations.
    He started out by saying the excess sales tax was up $28,000 from the previous year. After deducting the part set aside for streets, property tax reduction, economic development and the additional 3.49 mills for additional property tax reduction, that left them with about $90,000. When that was added to the balance of the fund it totaled $202,000.
    “We have always left about one mill in there,” Murry said, “so deduct $79,000.”
    That left them with $122,000 to spend.
    A total of four projects were brought before them totaling $172,000.
    Murry said they decided tasers for the police department did not fit the designated use of the money.
    The committee did vote to fund the community market in full for $50,000, the fire fighter training ground facility for $42,600 and the Summit Park play surface for $30,000, half of the amount requested.
    Murry said there was one person on the committee who wanted them to consider Towanda Street.
    “In the absence of a plan on how to use the money (for Towanda) we decided it wasn’t fair to those who had brought us a written plan,” Murry said.
    Commissioner Chase Locke said he had had a few people ask him about the community market and asked City Manager Herb Llewellyn to tell everyone what that could be.
    “For several years, the commission has discussed having a farmers market,” Llewellyn explained. “In fact, you had us go and develop sites, and you considered the sites.”
    He reminded them they had decided on building off of Gordy.
    “It was shortly thereafter Home Lumber went out of business,” he continued.
    He said they talked about getting the lumber storage area, but if not that they could build on the east side of Gordy Park, creating primarily a covered place for farmers to come in and sell their produce.
    “As discussions have gone on, and especially if we get the Home Lumber building, that is a different facility,” Llewellyn said.
    He said the farmers market facility discussed before was basically a fancy hay barn, but the this would be a fully functional building.
    He said discussions have led to that site being a community market, and not just for summer produce.
    “I think if the commission funds it, there is going to be a lot more discussion and we will have to talk to the stakeholders about what it is and how it operates,” Llewellyn said. “No decisions have been made because you don’t have a facility and depending on the facility it is going to in some way impact the use.”
    Page 2 of 7 - Locke pointed out the facility would have more uses than just a farmers market.
    “I’ve heard a lot of excitement about this in the community,” he said. “We don’t have anything like it necessarily.”
    Looking closer at the project with the fire station, Murry said it was a partnership with Butler Community College, which would be funding the majority of the project, with the city just being asked to lay the flatwork.
    “You will hear more about it during the budget process,” Llewellyn said. “If you vote to take the recommendation that tells staff to incorporate it in your 2015 budget so you’re going to see it again. It’s always subject to commission approval.”
    Commissioner Bill Young also asked to hear some history on the Summit Park project.
    “This is the only fully handicap, fully accessible park in El Dorado,” he said. “The surface of the playground area is old and is starting to separate. There are some challenges getting wheelchairs around that. Is this something that we fund from a maintenance perspective and we need to consider budgeting every nine years?”
    Llewellyn said part of that discussion needs to be on what is the norm of playgrounds and they are now considering people to do research for a parks and rec master plan, which would address some of that.
    “This is a park that serves a very specific purpose,” Young said. “I think it is important we understand the life expectancy of the base of this park so we can properly maintain it as with all of our facilities. I just want us to plan for the future so we understand what the maintenance cycle is on whatever base we put out there.”
    Llewellyn pointed out the only reason they allowed this request to come to sales tax is because it was putting down a different surface than was already there, otherwise it would have been maintenance.
    Young went on to say he was a proponent of the community market.
    “It is another great project to bring members of the community together,” he said.
    He also liked the project with Butler, saying it was another good partnership.
    Murry said with the fire training project they would have the only training facility in the county and wouldn’t have to send people to Sedgwick County to train any more.
    Mayor Mike Fagg then asked how they spend the $50,000 allotted for economic development.
    Murry said he did not know the specifics, but that it was part of the ordinance.
    Page 3 of 7 - Llewellyn said it goes into an industrial development fund and economic development fund until they need it for such things as the incentives given to BG Products.
    “I find it interesting we already spent last year 3.49 mills for property tax reduction since we passed that,” Fagg said. “This is on top of that.”
    Llewellyn said $279,000 was what they set in 2005 for 2006 property tax reduction.
    “This is not new,” he said. “It is maintaining what we did in 2005.”
    Fagg was concerned because it was said to be for city government expenditures, not property taxes.
    “You voted it in in 2005 to reduce the mill levy and use excess sales tax to do that,” Llewellyn said. “What has changed is the amount that one mill generates. This was all done when you were on the commission for those four years back in the beginning of the 2000s. In 2002 there was no additional property tax. This has all grown from those four years when you were on the commission. It tied the hands of the Sales Tax Committee and the commission to never get rid of it. You lowered it, Mike. The only way to get it higher is for the commission to raise the mill levy.”
    Fagg said they need to review that then, adding nothing was said about the $279,000 last year.
    “The only way to make that smaller is for you to raise the mill levy or to cut the size of government,” Llewellyn said.
    Fagg went on to talk about the proposed market. He asked who was buying the building and was told the city was.
    “We’re going to buy another building that we’re going to have the insurance for and take off of the tax rolls?” he asked.
    Llewellyn said yes.
    Suzie Locke, the city’s activities, sales and services manager, reviewed the numbers on how much is paid on the building in taxes and also the predicted income from the new use.
    The city gets $532 in property tax and $249 for storm water. She said they predict they would get about $1,900 in displaced sales tax and $200 in new sales tax, as well as $2,500 in vendor fees and $500 in special event reservations.
    Fagg was concerned they were using Convention and Visitors Bureau money for it.
    Suzie said CVB money is used to bring visitors to the community and she felt this was a great opportunity to do just that.
    Fagg also was concerned about the maintenance of the building.
    “If it is such a great opportunity why is there not a 501c3 jumping in?” he asked. “Why does the city have to go buy buildings?”
    Page 4 of 7 - Suzie said they think the sales tax generated will be able to meet maintenance costs.
    She went on to say there are multiple groups that have been involved in the process so far, and they expect more to come to the table when it comes to fruition.
    Fagg asked if they were going to make money on it.
    “I don’t know if you are going to make money, but you will grow a community space,” Suzie said. “We don’t have one of this nature.”
    Fagg said he was around when they talked about the Civic Center a long time ago and having all of those conventions come to town, but now they have roofs to replace.
    Llewellyn said the reason they did not see all of those conventions was because there wasn’t anything put in place to manage it.
    “You bought a building and didn’t have anyone trying to market it,” he said. “Now at least the commission has someone in place marketing that facility.”
    The Civic Center brought in about $20,000 more in income in 2013 than 2012 with it being marketed just six months.
    Chase said he didn’t think their goal was to make money.
    “I think this is going to be a wonderful quality of life issue coming into the community,” he said.
    Fagg then asked if the city owned the Numana building, but was told they had sold it to Numana for $1.
    “’I’m saying that could have been used,” he said.
    Chase said this was a whole different deal.
    Suzie pointed out 56 percent of the kids in USD 490 are on free and reduced lunches, with 77 percent of those being at Skelly Elementary and able to walk to this site.
    “That is where the school system should be helping us with this program,” Fagg said.
    “It’s about more than a farmers market,” Suzie said, explaining it could be used for ag sustainability.
    Fagg then pointed out they have the 4-H building, but Suzie said it was owned by the county so they have no control over what happens there.
    “Is there something you are against or want to see this money used for?” Chase asked Fagg.
    “The thing I am concerned about is buying another building,” Fagg answered. “We keep spending here and spending there and we’ve got to get our reigns on that.”
    Page 5 of 7 - “I don’t like sounding like everything is dying,” said Chase.
    Fagg then asked if the CVB money generated by the motels was being used to drive traffic to them.
    Suzie said when they bring people to the community they will stay in the motels. She also said all of the motels are included in her e-mail list so they were notified of the discussion but she had not heard any concerns.
    “I just don’t want to see the city buying another building right now,” Fagg reiterated.
    Fagg then asked why one person on the Advisory Committee voted against the recommendation and he was told there were two people who wanted to fix Towanda Street who live near there.
    Fagg then returned to the topic of the 4-H building and asked why they don’t have a discussion about that.
    “The city of El Dorado does not have a space,” Suzie said. “Butler County and K-State Extension Office have a space.”
    Chase also said there were limitations with the 4-H building.
    “This is going to be a facility where they can pull in and set up a normal farmers market,” he said. “It’s (the 4-H building) not set up for this exact thing. And again, it’s not just a farmers market. There are a lot of ideas I have heard kicked around.”
    Fagg then asked how grocery stores feel about it.
    “We already have a farmers market that competes with them,” Suzie said.
    Commissioner David Chapin asked if the building would be used in off-season times.
    Suzie said it would provide additional special events space, as well as provide for a winter market, something Wichita has just started offering.
    Young then added his thoughts on the market.
    “This is a discussion we’ve had at the commission level certainly for the last two years and we’ve continued to ask as a commission staff to explore this and find some solutions on where to build,” he said. “I know there’s a large community of people in and around El Dorado that have an interest in fresh produce.”
    Fagg then changed the discussion back to Towanda Street, asking if any part of the Turnpike was in the city limits.
    The property on the west side of Boyer is in the city.
    “One thing I would like to get straight is the KTA is in the city limits, Mr. Kropf is not in the city limits and we cannot assess his property,” Fagg said.
    Page 6 of 7 - He wanted to fix the portion of the road in the township also because they said they would contribute. All that was proposed of Towanda Avenue was the portion that falls within the city limits.
    Llewellyn pointed out they only said they would pay for half, which for a four inch overlay would be about $40,000. He asked why Fagg kept linking the two projects – Towanda and Boyer.
    Fagg read a statement from the minutes saying Llewellyn was linking the two projects.
    “I only linked them because you keep linking them,” Llewellyn said. “You keep linking Sixth and Boyer to Towanda. When a minute reflects I said something it is about your link to compare the two.”
    Fagg again said the township was going to pay their half.
    “No they are not,” Llewellyn said. “They are going to pay half of an overlay.”
    Fagg again said Llewellyn said Kropf is not like the Turnpike.
    “Did you quote the part (of the minutes) where I told them (the advisory committee) they could use the money from sales tax,” he said. “Let’s tell the public that part too. You’re picking and choosing what you’re telling the public. The real point is you told me to tell them they could use the money (on Towanda) and I did.”
    “When did I tell you?” Fagg asked.
    Llewellyn said it was in a meeting in that very room.
    Fagg then said he thought the city broke policy when doing Boyer.
    “I would like to see that final total cost and who paid the bill,” he said.
    Chase then turned the subject back to the recommendations, asking if there was any other thoughts regarding them.
    “I’m just concerned we’re spending sales tax money and we’re going to have it all spent some day,” Fagg said. “There was a time we didn’t have a penny of sales tax in this town.”
    Chapin said he remembered that and was part of the original group working to get the one cent tax.
    “We are spending last year’s collection, then we will get another $2.3 million, then another,” he said. “The money isn’t going to run out.”
    Fagg said he was saying they were going to have it all spent.
    “The stuff we spend this money on is for the community,” Chapin said. “It all goes into the community for people to use.”
    Page 7 of 7 - Chapin asked how many other cities have farms markets that are city supported and he was told there are some.
    “I’m not against that, Suzie,” Fagg said. “I would sure like us to work with the county. If we share costs, this could be a county deal. It does not have to be a city deal. We all pay county taxes.”
    His other concern was still buying the building.
    After holding a public hearing during which no one spoke at the moment but Judie Storandt had spoke in favor of the community market earlier, the recommendation was approved 5-0.
    Julie Clements can be reached at jclements@butlercountytimesgazette.com.
     
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