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Hutchinson City Council Approves 2024 Budget and Revenue Neutral Rate

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By Lucky Kidd 

 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Hank Gier expressed concerns about how increased property values are impacting especially older residents of the city this morning during public hearings on the 2024 budget and exceeding the Revenue Neutral Rate at the Hutchinson City Council Meeting.

The proposed budget does reduce the city’s mill levy by a little over 1.2 mills, but to be revenue neutral would require the levy to be trimmed by about another 1.2 mills. Council members agreed with those concerns, but also pointed out the increased costs the city has seen over the past three years to maintain existing services.

There was also discussion on funding allocations for downtown projects and for turfing of fields at Fun Valley and Hobart Detter Field, a joint project at least involving Hutchinson Community College. In the end, the Council approved both the budget and exceeding the RNR. The City’s total levy includes that for the Hutchinson Recreation Commission, which is keeping their levy the same as for 2023 and has already had their budget and RNR hearings.

2024 memorandums of understanding with Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 and International Association of Firefighters Local 179 were approved by the Council. Both contracts call for increases in base scales for police officers firefighters and fire captains along with updating of the merit pay matrix based on an overall budget of 4.25 percent. Both contracts also address wage compression issues over the past three years.

The firefighters’ contract also includes addition of a new job classification of fire engineer, setting the pay range for it and minor adjustments to clothing allowances.

The FOP agreement also includes language related to School Resource Officers working in other bureaus during school vacation times, new clarifying language related to leave status for officers under investigation for creditable concerns of serious off-duty misconduct, and revisions to promotional assessment procedures.

Altogether, this will mean a 9.6 percent in compensation costs for the Fire Department and 9.7 percent for Police, which are justified with a challenging labor market in both areas.

The Council also signed off on Reno County’s plan to issue 5.5 million dollars of industrial revenue bonds to APAC Kansas for their new office facility and other projects at Avenue G and Lorraine. Because the site adjoins the city limits, City Council approval is required by state law. As part of the proposal Wichita State University ran their economic impact model, which showed a positive rate of return on the project from the city’s standpoint.

Bud Conklin was appointed to fill an unexpired term on the Hutchinson Housing Commission. This term is one Lucas Soltow resigned from earlier and runs through the end of this year. Conklin would then be eligible to serve two consecutive three-year terms on the Housing Commission.

The Council also approved special event designated entertainment districts for the Hutchinson Zoo’s Paint and Sip event on Sept. 23 and for Hutch Fest and Rod Run Oct. 6-7. The Council allowed the serving of alcohol in designated areas.