Valley Falls officials schooled in municipal finance

by Clarke Davis

The Valley Falls City Council members were schooled July 20 in municipal finance.

Jeff White, managing director of Columbia Capital Management, Overland Park, visited city hall to explain how the city might go about financing numerous projects, with the Barnes Subdivision being a top priority.

White’s talk was video recorded for the sake of councilman Todd Harrington, who could not make the meeting.

Improvements at the waste water treatment plant, south Linn Street, and remodeling a building for relocating city hall are also on the list.

White outlined several funding sources that included general obligation bonds, state revolving fund loans, community development grants and loans. Dedicated taxes or special assessments can also be part of the mix as well as cash on hand.

An estimated $172,000 is the first price tag to bring water to the Barnes Subdivision. Engineers tell the city that the water from the city’s two water towers needs to be more evenly divided and the south tower should serve more of the southern portion of the community, including the Barnes land.

Using GO bonds spread over 22 years, the annual cost would be $15,000.

It’s believed $649,000 will bring sewer service and a street to the east portion of the subdivision. The annual pay out of that expense over 22 years would be $52,000.

The questions officials have to answer, since the city is the developer, are how much of that expense should be borne by the person buying a lot and how much, if any, should be paid by the citizens at large.

If the lot prices are too high or the annual tax assessments are too steep, no one will be able to afford to buy or live there; made more affordable the city’s assessed valuation and tax collections will increase along with sales tax and other benefits from growth.

Officials will need to come up with where that breaking point is and then determine if it is politically feasible.

Some initial work required at the waste water treatment lagoons is estimated to cost $312,000. This project, like the city water project a few years ago, would more likely be subject to a grant along with a loan.

White said state law will not allow a city to exceed a debt load of more than 30 percent of its assessed value, but water and waste water projects can be excluded from that tally.

The city’s assessed value is approximately $5.4 million, putting the debt ceiling at $1.6 million.

Adding south Linn Street and a new city hall to the 20-year bonds would add $30,000 in annual payments.

White’s advice was to learn more about each project — its priority, timing, and scope — identify funding sources, understand the political support, and then prepare a comprehensive plan of finance to govern the future.

Mayor Charles Stutesman called for a budget work session July 27, but has said before going in he does not want a tax increase.

• Sylvia Woodgate, who was given permission to harbor chickens at 1706 Oak Street July 6, was back at city hall asking to be allowed to keep a rooster, something prohibited by city ordinance.

She said it was an old rooster, a pet that she could not give up. The council allowed an exception of the ordinance only until the rooster dies or unless someone complains. There are no close neighbors at this residence.

• The mayor and council discussed incorporating an evaluation process for part-time or seasonal employees. Pool manager Shirley Allen was present and told it would be her job to evaluate those who worked for her and to inform those she wants to return that they will have a job next year.

Councilwoman Lucy Thomas said it was unfair for Allen not to know her status until late in the spring — sometimes too late to adequately prepare for the next season.

It was suggested that part-time people will be evaluated and notified by March 1 if they are welcome back. The same goes for the street and mowing crews.

• The council approved the purchase of new accounting software for city hall along with a new computer and a combination copier and fax. The software will cost $3,825 from Jayhawk Utility Software, Iola. The computer will be purchased from JNR Rural Internet & PC, Valley Falls, for $1,388. The copier and fax is a Lanier purchased from Midwest Office Technology, Lenexa, for $4,153.

• The council will approve its budget for publication at the Aug. 3 meeting and hold a hearing Aug. 17.

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