Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bozarth's final budget prompts council discussion about how city should handle sidewalk improvements

By Taylor Norberg and Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telcommunications

Tom Bozarth’s final budget proposal as Midway mayor, discussed by the city council Monday, calls for several equipment upgrades including a new fire truck to replace one that is 42 years old.

Bozarth expects a new truck to cost around $235,000 and the city to finance it over a 10 years using one of its certificates of deposit.  He plans to make a down payment of $100,000 to $125,000 and have the option to pay it off early.

Along with a new fire truck, Bozarth is looking to spend $5,000 on maintenance at the fire department and $15,500 for two new mowers, $4,889 for a leaf box and $4,700 for a utility trailer to reduce employee trips.

Bozarth told the council that his plan would be to surplus the oldest mower and have any proceeds go towards the cost, as they have done with equipment upgrades in the past.  He said the oldest mower is about 12 years old. 

The money apparently would come from the city’s surplus, which is listed in the budget as “contingency,” $205,958 of the total budget of $1,613,058, and from an increase in occupational-tax income.

Bozarth’s budget anticipates $275,000 in occupational-tax revenue in 2014-15, a 10 percent rise from 2013-14. He noted the creation, and expected creation, of new jobs at the Interstate 64 interchange.  

The budget projects property-tax revenue to remain at $115,000, which is the same figure in the 2014 budget.  Business license fees are expected to be $12,000, less than the $15,000 budgeted this year but more than the $10,000 budgeted in 2012-13.. 

The proposed budget has $10,000 for sidewalks. The 2013-14 budget had $98,385 for sidewalk upgrades, but that included $70,000 for the Gratz Street sidewalk and wall and $20,000 for the Main Street handicapped ramp – a cost that Bozarth said will be only $12,000 as a result of a donation from R.J. Corman Railroad Co.

The sidewalk budget raised the question of how the city sets priorities for such work and whether the city,  property owners or both should pay for sidewalk upgrades.

Bozarth said in an interview that it isn’t right to make homeowners pay entirely for upgrades.  “I don’t think a homeowner can pay for sidewalk repair,” he said, noting the large number of rental properties and fixed-income homeowners in the city. Also, he said, “I don’t think it’s fair to put a new sidewalk in when we have an old sidewalk that needs repaired.  It’s a safety issue and it needs to be addressed.”

Perhaps the largest single sidewalk project would be to build a walk from Brand Street to the entrance of the Homeplace at Midway, the senior community being built on Stephens Street across from Midway College. When Council Member Bruce Southworth, who lives at the corner of Stephens and Brand, mentioned it, Bozarth said the city should plan for it.

“What I would like to see is a plan … to get a cost” for sidewalk needs, said Bozarth, who is not seeking re-election this year. “That’s something that’s going to take a long time to plan.”

Council Member Sharon Turner, who is running for mayor, said she would like to see the council rate sidewalk needs “the way we did water lines and go through the list.”

Council Member Grayson Vandegrift, the other candidate for mayor, said, “As a council we should develop a kind of comprehensive sidewalk strategy plan.”

Retiring Council Member Aaron Hamilton said, “We already did that two years ago.” Turner said, “But we didn’t work off of it.” She said she would look for the list.

Council Member Sara Hicks said trees should be considered in the sidewalk plan, because walks get pushed up by tree roots.

The largest increase in the budget is for a new contract with the Versailles Police Department, which patrols all of Woodford County under contract with the county and Midway. The city budgeted $68,667 for the contract this year; the proposed budget calls for $100,000.

“It’s not unreasonable,” said Midway Council Member Bruce Southworth, a former Versailles city administrator. “Everything goes up.” Longtime Council Member Sharon Turner said she had never had any complaints about police protection.

The Versailles City Council “just asked that we increase the contract,” Police Chief John Wilhoit told the Midway council. “Our budget’s gone up.” Bozarth said he understood that, citing as an example retirement contributions equaling 42 percent of salaries for hazardous-duty employees such as police.

At Bozarth’s request, Wilhoit agreed to make the new contract run four years instead of three. “Unless something drastic happens, I think this will ride out for four years,” Wilhoit said.

There is a $6,000 maintenance increase in the proposed cemetery budget for 2015 as a result of the plan to build an additional sidewalk to wrap around behind the veterans’ monument and next to the fuve flagpoles that are to be erected, one for each branch of service.

Bozarth looks to spend $7,500 on the tank at the old sewer plant so it can be used in a demonstration project for Kentucky State University’s aquaculture program. He told council members that Steve Mims of KSU would make another appearance before them to discuss the project.  

The proposed budget has $54,984 for City Hall salaries, a cut in this year’s budgeted amount of $57,062.  A cutback in her overtime caused the decrease, City Clerk-Treasurer Phyllis Hudson told the Messenger,  “I took out some of the overtime because I don’t receive overtime anymore.”  Hudson said she makes $40,000 a year. The mayor gets $100 a month and council members get $50 a month.

The proposed budget includes $5,000 for the Woodford County Economic Development Authority.  The 2013-14 budget allotted no money for the EDA, but the council has since given EDA $5,000, so the proposed budget would not be a change in policy.

The proposal has a snow-removal budget of $25,000, up $5,000 from $20,000 this year.  Since being reclassified as a fourth-class city, Midway has been independently contracting snow removal because the county would no longer do the work.  The council agreed that contracting has been successful during this tough and long winter.  They noted that the $20,000 budgeted for 2014 was almost entirely used.

The council will discuss the budget again at its regularly scheduled meeting Monday, April 21 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, and again at another special meeting on Monday, April 28 at 9 a.m. at City Hall. For a PDF copy of the budget, click here.

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