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2017 PREVIEW: Rental registry, parks on tap

By Bryan Richardson

Editor’s note: This is the final article in a series looking at what’s coming in 2017. Today , a look at Manhattan’s city government.

Manhattan will build on previous years’ work to move forward with a number of projects in 2017.

This will happen as officials tackle new budgetary challenges and find ways to fund improvements around the city.

Parks and Recreation feasibility study

The city is gearing up to complete its Parks and Recreation study on improving facilities this year.

The study is focused on building indoor recreation space at Anthony and Eisenhower middle schools as well as making improvements at CiCo Park, including work on the ball fields and tennis courts.

The city anticipates this study will be completed by April with a potential election in November to support the renewal of a “quality of life” sales tax to help fund the improvements.

This year, the city can choose to end the current quarter-cent quality of life sales tax, which goes toward the city’s pools and Sunset Zoo. The voters passed this tax in 2009. If the commission approved ending the tax early, it would allow for a renewal vote in November.

Rental program

After adding protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in 2016, the city commission will tackle another long-standing issue in 2017. In 2011, the commission repealed a program with mandatory interior inspections for rental properties. The current commission revisited the issue in an effort to help tenants with potential safety issues, but the focus is on education and rental registration rather than increased inspections.

City manager Ron Fehr said the city will present another proposal for a rental program to the commission during the first quarter of 2017.

The city has stepped away from a draft ordinance presented in September that called for an interior inspection upon consent if a property owner received three ‘non-corrected’ violations in a 12-month period.


The commission will have to deal with a tax lid during the city budget development this year.

This 2018 budget will be the first under the tax lid passed by the state legislature in 2015. The tax lid would require local governments and school districts to have an election when proposed property tax increases exceed the rate of inflation. The consumer price index (CPI) for all urban consumers was 0.7 percent in 2015, the latest full year available. The city has a mill levy of 48.023 mills this year, an increase of 1.072 mills from 2016. A mill is $1 in tax for every $1,000 in assessed, taxable property value.

Finance director Bernie Hayen said in July that the levy could only increase less than 1 mill for the nonexempt portion of the levy if the lid was in effect for the 2017 budget.

However, police and fire departments, bond and interest payments, property valuations, and new building construction are among the areas exempt from the lid.

North campus corridor

The city will continue to develop a funding strategy and phasing plan for an estimated $50 million of work to improve the K-State north campus corridor.

The work focuses on potential growth along North Manhattan Avenue, Kimball Avenue, Denison Avenue, and College Avenue. It will include roadway expansions, new intersections, safety enhancements, streetscape improvements and pedestrian amenities. This is a multi-year, multi-phase project. The focus for 2017 will be on finishing designs on selected projects. The city is in active dialogue with the state to leverage Sales Tax Revenue (STAR) bonds for a potential $25 million.

The city received $50 million in STAR bonds, which the state provides for major commercial, entertainment and tourism areas, for the Flint Hills Discovery Center.

Revenue to pay off the bonds comes from state sales taxes collected from the north and south end of the city’s downtown redevelopment, which generates $5 million a year.

City officials estimate the bonds will be paid off by 2021, five years before the payment district expires in 2026.

The university and city consider the corridor’s improvement as necessary because of the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility ‘s (NBAF) anticipated arrival in 2022 and K-State’s anticipated research growth.

Fehr said the city’s argument to the state involves the benefit of NBAF to the area and state, and the potential to use the Discovery Center to “tell NBAF’s story.”

He said the city expects an answer from the state early this year.

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