Joco 913

Proposed Olathe budget would boost spending to $369 million

The city proposed increasing water service rates by 4 percent.
The city proposed increasing water service rates by 4 percent. File photo

The Olathe City Council on Tuesday got its first look at the proposed budget for 2018, a plan that would boost total spending by almost 10 percent to $369 million.

Council members plan to hold a series of public workshops to review individual pieces of the budget on July 11, 18 and 25 ahead of a scheduled public hearing on the budget in the council chambers on Aug. 1 and final adoption of the spending plan on Aug. 15.

This year’s total spending authority was capped at approximately $336 million. This counts spending from all funds, including those paid for by users, such as utilities and the library.

Spending from the general fund, which covers the majority of the city’s operations, is proposed to grow 2.7 percent to $102.6 million next year.

Revenue from property taxes, which support about 20 percent of the city’s budget, are expected to grow from $18.6 million this year to $19.9 million in 2018. City Manager Michael Wilkes presented the highlights of the budget to the council but did not discuss whether the budget would require changing the current mill levy.

However, he did outline several increases in utility rates that he said were designed to help the city replace aging infrastructure faster, attract Johnson County dollars for flood control projects and better serve a growing population.

For example, the city proposes increasing water service rates by 4 percent, which Wilkes estimated would cost the average single-family home an extra $1.46 a month. Sewer rates would increase 5.2 percent, or 82 cents a month, while stormwater management fees would increase 2 percent, or 11 cents per residential unit.

Residential solid waste fees would increase 1.5 percent, or 29 cents, a month.

Wilkes also discussed a number of proposed new hires to help support key city functions, although he pointed out that the city’s per-capita workforce would remain similar to 2017 levels.

Overall, he said the budget continues to follow taxpayer demands that the majority of city spending go to improve transportation and public safety.

Among the additions would be three police detectives to help close more cases, a school resource officer to serve the soon-to-open Olathe West High School, a two-man firefighter/paramedic emergency squad to cover more purely emergency calls to the fire department, a horticulturalist to oversee development of parkland at Lake Olathe and an inspector to handle the growing list of city infrastructure projects.

The budget would also contribute more cash to street maintenance, fund a project to improve traffic signal timing and invest in a community-based initiative to help strengthen struggling areas of town.

Olathe uses a biennial budget structure, meaning that the council is also considering a proposed spending plan for 2019, which it will conditionally adopt at the time it formally approves the 2018 budget. Unlike the 2018 spending plan, the council can make changes to the 2019 budget throughout next year before formally adopting it next summer.

The 2019 spending plan is proposed to cost $388 million and would incorporate many of the same utility increases proposed in the 2018 plan.

In other business, the council voted 4 to 3 to rezone a narrow, 2.7-acre strip between 135th and 138th streets near Pflumm Road for a 484-unit mini-storage center and small retail space.

The project first went before city planners last fall and evolved over the course of five hearings over eight months as the owner, Foroozan Alaeddini, tried to address concerns raised by city officials and neighbors about the project’s size and how it would be screened from nearby residents and passing drivers.

The latest version includes three, two-story buildings including 484 units, a 4,833-square-foot retail building, an 8-foot screening wall and additional screening trees.

Several neighbors attended the meeting Tuesday and asked the council to vote against the project, which they said would affect their property values and that the city already has more than enough storage facilities. Instead, they suggested turning part or all of the strip of land between the Menards store and the Magellan Pipeline storage facility into parkland or trails.

The council also voted 5-2 to accept a stormwater easement, part of the final plat for a proposed self-storage center on six acres north of Santa Fe Street between Lindenwood Drive and Mur-Len Road.

An adjacent business owner asked the Council earlier this month to deny the project as he seeks to resolve legal issues with the owner of the proposed storage center site. Council members, who are not required to sign off on the project’s final site plan, asked staff to present those plans for their review before providing building permits.

David Twiddy: