1. What is your view of the property tax levy: too high, about right or too low? If too high, how would you reduce it?
We should work towards decreasing the property tax levy. I want to keep taxes as low as possible while still preserving the programs most citizens believe are vital to the community. Property taxes go not only to the City but also the USD 383 school district, Riley County, and the State of Kansas. Of all the money that is collected via property taxes only 32% goes to the city, the other 68% goes to entities outside the direct control of the City Manager. The city does not control the entire property tax levy. We have several unknowns coming from the state and federal government. We don’t know what the state will do about school funding, income tax or other mandates that may place a burden local government. On the federal side, we don’t know exactly how sequestration, the Affordable Health Care Act or other mandates will impact Manhattan.
2. Which social service agencies should the city be responsible for funding, at least in part?
As a city, we have an obligation to take care of our residents. This is the core of the city mission. I think we need to hold each agency accountable and prioritize how money is allotted. The Social Services Advisory Board is looking at prioritizing and evaluating agencies that request funding. A couple of criteria that they will be considering are if an organization is providing basic human needs and preventive measures so citizens can be productive in society. I believe this is the right path to provide services for our most vulnerable citizens while being fiscally responsible. It would be in best interest of the city to assist our residents in becoming productive members of the community.
3. Does the city need to reduce its debt? If so, how?
Yes, the city does need to reduce its debt, but decreasing the debt at all costs may put us risk of losing potential long-term revenue and meeting the needs of the citizens of Manhattan. If we forego incremental growth, we may pay more in the long term. What matters is the amount of debt tied to property taxes. Most of Manhattan’s debt is long- term, and much of it is tied to revenue producing activities, therefore, making the debt manageable. The half-cent sales tax was approved in November by a majority of voters and from that money 35% will go towards the payment of the outstanding debt.
4. What guidelines would you follow to determine how to spend the city’s 65 percent portion of the half-cent sales tax that is dedicated to economic development and infrastructure?
The problem with the 65% of the half-cent sales tax was that there weren’t any guidelines set for a certain percentage for either infrastructure or economic development. The parameters are very broad. We need to have adequate roads, bridges, water supply and sewers in place to sustain growth and development. I believe there must be money allocated to economic development because of necessity. NBAF will be a key player in the growth of Manhattan, along with a predicted increase in Kansas State University, Ft.