GREG LOWER

Chanute city commissioners heard presentations from outside agencies during a work session Monday evening about funding and the 2020 budget.

Representatives of Chanute Art Gallery, Chanute Historical Society, FireEscape Coffeehouse, Main Street Chanute and other agencies pitched their funding requests to commissioners, who also discussed questions that came up from the previous budget session and the need for future projects.

The Chanute Tourism Committee, the management of which is contracted through the Chamber of Commerce at $44,000 per year for all local, statewide and national promotion, as well as Main Street Chanute and the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum requested funding increases, and the Bit & Spur Saddle Club also asked for funding.

The Art Gallery, at $8,000, the Historical Society, at $1,500, and the FireEscape, at $4,000, requested the same amount for 2020 as for 2019. Those agencies, the Safari Museum and Main Street are funded from the city’s general fund, while Tourism and the annual city fireworks display are funded from the Transient Guest Tax fund.

Commissioners said they would increase the Safari Museum city funding to $40,000 from $34,000 previously, and Main Street to $41,000 to purchase special items for downtown, but keep Tourism at $44,000, the same level as last year. Chamber director Jane Brophy said the agency’s contracted funding has been the same since 2006, although some years it did not receive that much.

Brophy had requested an additional $6,000 plus $18,500 for one-time projects, mostly consisting of signage. Main Street Director Ruthann Boatwright’s request was for $32,000, the same as last year, plus $9,000 to purchase new downtown Christmas decorations.

Boatwright said a decoration sales project had raised enough to purchase a lighted display that would stretch across Main Street. She also hoped for an additional $9,000 in 2021.

The Safari Museum had requested an increase to $50,000 for next year, but wasn’t specific in where the additional money would be spent.

The commission has some room to wiggle for 2020 because the Chanute Regional Development Authority is now funded by a portion of a quarter-percent sales tax, instead of the previous 100 percent funding from the city’s general fund.

The total requested amounts, including tourism funding, would have been $181,500, down from $188,500 for 2019.

The saddle club requested $2,000 funding. Vice President Mara Jordan said they want to make improvements to buildings at the grounds, and also improve lighting. Commissioners instead said they would provide in-kind assistance by installing lights.

Commissioners discussed the role of government in the community in supporting outside any agencies.

“I struggle philosophically with all of this,” Commissioner Tim Fairchild said.

Commissioner Jacob LaRue said most of the agencies were frugal enough to ask for what they received this year, where he had figured an increase of 10 percent.

Commissioner Phil Chaney pointed to the need for massive repairs and upkeep at the Safari Museum, formerly the city’s train depot.

“Those big numbers aren’t going down,” he said.

“I see a lot of things there that make Chanute what Chanute is,” Mayor Sam Budreau said. “That’s part of our history.”

Finance Director Corey Kepley said tentative figures put the ad valorem tax levy at 41.218 mills now. He said the city’s valuation is $63 million.

Fairchild said he wants to keep the tax rate the same.

City officials expect the city’s debt to decrease dramatically in a few years, but Fairchild said there are $19.5 million in needed projects that could quickly replace it.

“When that debt goes away, we need to be ready,” he said. “These things are coming.”

City Manager Jeff Cantrell said something is wrong if a city does not have debt, because it might not be forecasting future needs.

One of the expected expenses is a electrical generator turbine for the city’s power plant, which will need between $4 million and $5 million in repairs. City official Rick Willis said the city will lose $40,000 a month in payments from its generating capacity while the turbine is down.

 

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