Council talks budget cuts


Local News

July 23, 2018 - 11:00 PM

Iola City Council members continued to hammer out their 2019 spending plan for the city Monday.

But while the city’s spending authority should be set soon, how much is spent remains up in the air.

The Council scheduled an Aug. 13 budget hearing, which they anticipate will be supported by an ad valorem tax levy of about 48.5 mills to generate $3.7 million for the General Fund.

City Administrator Sid Fleming gave the Council a laundry list of targeted cuts totaling more than $120,000 from the General Fund, ranging from eliminating mosquito spraying to paring the money several departments make to their respective equipment reserve funds.

“These cuts don’t necessarily come highly recommended from the staff,” Fleming said.

THERE ARE still several items the Council needs to decide by 2019, he continued, including:

— The sustainability of the city’s water fund, which is expected to end the year more than $200,000 in the red, even without making the $600,000 bond payment this year — capital projects funding was used — and without a transfer to the General Fund as had been done in years past. Council members earlier this year voted down a pair of proposed rate increases. Fleming said the issue likely will be brought back up again toward the end of the year.

— Long-term staffing numbers. Councilman Ron Ballard has previously stated his desire to see the city’s workforce be cut back through attrition.

— The city’s support for such items as the Bowlus Fine Arts Center and the Iola Area Chamber of Commerce.

— Whether Iola will continue to spend money for economic development. Currently, the city, county and Iola Industries each pay $20,000 to Thrive Allen County for economic development.

THE MOSQUITO spraying brought the first note of disagreement Monday.

Councilwoman Nancy Ford favored keeping the practice, which costs about $15,000 annually — even more if overtime is required — because of the inherent benefit of having fewer mosquitoes in town.

“We will regret it terribly,” she said. “If you go to a community where they don’t spray, you’ll notice the difference.”

Councilmen Chase Martin and Gene Myrick, however, favored cutting the spraying, citing studies skeptical of the spraying’s effectiveness.

Mark Peters joined Ford, leading Fleming and Mayor Jon Wells to recommend tabling the discussion until the three missing Council members — Ron Ballard, Aaron Franklin and Daniel Mathew — are in attendance.