GREG LOWER

Chanute and Neosho County commissioners focused on budgets in work sessions Monday evening.

Commissioners began planning the 2021 budget without information on income. Chanute Chief Financial Officer Cory Kepley said valuations were not available before Monday evening’s work session, but he presented information on upcoming spending needs.

Meanwhile, county commissioners met with outside agencies to discuss their budget requests. Scheduled agencies included Southeast Kansas Mental Health, Osage Mission Museum, Chanute Regional Development Authority and Southeast Kansas Regional Planning Commission, Southeast Kansas Area Agency on Aging, and SEK-CAP Transportation.

Chanute commissioners Kevin Berthot and Phil Chaney did not attend Monday’s work session.

For 2020, taxpayers in Chanute paid a total 197.749 mil levy. 

The city levied 41.038 mils or 20.75 percent, the county levied 53.327 mills (26.97 percent), Neosho County Community College levied 37.275 mils (18.8 percent) and Chanute USD 413 levied 63.022 (31.87 percent).

Kepley compared Chanute’s levy to other area cities and said it is one of the lowest in the area.

The city’s general fund faces a $1.295 million deficit between planned expenses and revenue for 2021. 

“We’ve got a hole to plug and we’ve got work to do. We’ve got a new department,” Commissioner Tim Fairchild said.

Kepley said the new dispatch center, set to go online July 1, throws a curve ball into the budget, which makes the bottom line look worse.

“It doesn’t look great,” he said.

The dispatch center has 10 full-time employees and two part-time. The police department has 17 officers, but would like to have 21.

Interim City Manager Todd Newman said the city effectively had a hiring and spending freeze that began two months ago. Officials do not know what impact the economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) will have on sales tax totals and are expecting the worst.

Kepley said the most recent sales tax report in May covered business during the month of March, the start of the shutdown. He said the sales tax collections were off 2 percent.

The city’s refuse department shows a $416,000 deficit for next year and the sewer department has a $43,000 deficit.

Newman said equipment is one of the biggest expenses for the coming year, with a price tag of more than $1.2 million for the 10 top needs.

“A lot of our equipment is aging and aging fast,” Newman said.

Capital projects totaling $16 to $18 million are already started or need to start soon, Newman said. The projects include the animal shelter, Santa Fe ballfields, airport, intersection of 21st and Plummer, the fiber optic broadband system, and the wastewater treatment plant, which is estimated to cost up to $10 million.

In discussion of the fiber system, which is currently being deployed in two neighborhoods, Newman said it has 182 takers and could have more than 200 households soon. But he said after construction is completed, there will be no crew set up to do maintenance or add additional customers.

Fairchild said the current take rate is 31 percent of households in the targeted neighborhoods, and Commissioner Sam Budreau said he and other residents just outside of those areas will want to sign on.

 

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