Manhattan city commissioners on Tuesday reached consensus on a smaller increase to the 2020 property tax rate.

However, budget work still continues.

Bernie Hayen, director of finance, presented options to lessen the property tax increase by using sales tax revenue from the economic development fund to pay a portion of the Manhattan Conference Center and Manhattan Regional Airport debt payments.

Hayen’s option cuts 1.19 mills out of the proposed 1.657-mill increase. A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 in assessed, taxable property.

This reduction brings the proposed property tax rate for 2020 down to 49.82 mills, a 0.47-mill increase over the 2019 rate of 49.35 mills.

Based on a 0.4% increase in the average value of a home within Manhattan, the proposed 0.47-mill increase means a homeowner paying $567.58 in city taxes for a home worth $100,000 in 2019 would pay $575.22 for a home worth $100,400 in 2020. That’s an increase of $7.64 or 1.34%.

“I think that’s a good message to send,” commissioner Wynn Butler said. “Because as Commissioner (Usha) Reddi said, we’re looking at some big projects, and we’re looking at a 0.3% sales tax increase (on the) November ballot, and this sends the right message that we want to redirect where that’s going. And that 0.3% sales tax increase is worth 6 mills on property tax, so it’s a really big deal. So I’m happy to see where we’re at tonight.”

The commission has a final budget work session planned for July 23 before it gives its consent to publish the 2020 budget.

The total proposed budget is $164.05 million, an $8.1 million increase from 2019.

Under Kansas law, once a proposed budget is published, total expenditures cannot be raised. However, they can be lowered.

In addition to examining the property tax rate, commissioners heard budget requests from the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce and Manhattan Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The chamber requested $183,080, which is the same amount as 2019. Military relations within the chamber requested $40,000. The CVB asked for about $1.3 million, an increase of $56,179 from its request in 2019.

The CVB looks to increase funding for attractions and events to bring visitors to the community.

“It’s a great time to be a part of Manhattan to see what’s next,” said Karen Hibbard, CVB director.