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? The property tax levy at 43.3 mills is unacceptably high. Manhattan is becoming non-competitive with peer cities like Lawrence whose levy is 50% lower than ours. It should be a priority of city government to look for ways to lower the levy over time or it will soon become an economic development negative to say nothing for the hardship it places on citizens currently, particularly those on fixed incomes.
2. Which social service agencies should the city be responsible for funding, at least in part? The current SSAB budget at $354k is appropriate to the needs of Manhattan. This budget should always be a reflection first of need and second of growth in the community. Agencies funded are a matter for determination by the SSAB advisory board with approval of the city commission on a year by year basis. Certainly CASA would an example of an institution deserving city support. I strongly oppose any effort toward a mandatory SSAB mill levy.
3. Does the city need to reduce its debt? If so, how? Debt reduction should be a priority. This can be accomplished over time by sound tax policy and by avoiding further commitments which are based on increasing the city’s debt. I would, however, strongly oppose any effort toward mandatory debt reduction schemes that somehow nullify the authority of the city commission.
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? I believe this sales tax can be used to effectively lower property taxes. It will be a decision based on budgetary needs at the time, but hopefully about half could be used for infrastructure needs thus lowering property tax requirements. I would resist pressures to use it all for that purpose as a fund should be generated for ecodevo opportunities that spin off of NBAF and other avenues. The question put before and passed by voters was needlessly vague and sadly will be a point of contention for years to come.