OSAWATOMIE — City Manager Mike Scanlon and the Osawatomie City Council are going all in on city streets, and it’s a move they hope residents will get behind.
The council passed two resolutions at its Aug. 26 meeting that are both focused on dedicated revenues for street repairs, replacement, and maintenance.
The first resolution would increase the general fund in the proposed 2022 city budget from the revenue neutral rate of 27.669 mills to 44.433 mills. The increase in mill rate would generate $450,000 annually that would be dedicated to street repairs, replacement and maintenance, according to the city.
The second resolution will place a question on the November ballot for Oswatomie voters to consider a special retailers’ sales tax of one-half of 1 percent (0.5 percent) to take effect Jan. 1, 2022. The sales tax increase would generate an estimated $125,000 annually to put toward street repairs.
Scanlon said the two initiatives — when coupled with $1 million the city will receive over the next 10 years from the Miami County sales tax and an estimated $2 million in state and federal grants — would generate $8,750,000 dedicated solely to streets over the next 10 years.
Scanlon said the city had to identify these multiple revenue sources in order to make a significant stride in improving the condition of the community’s streets.
“When you’re talking about streets, sidewalks, parks, trails — stuff like that, that’s all general fund money,” Scanlon said. “We don’t have enough to make a dent in our street program.”
Scanlon said he suggested a roughly 17-mill increase in the general fund that would be dedicated to streets.
“We’re going to sunset that 17 mills after 10 years, or in 10 years another governing body can say, ‘Hey, we want to keep it because we think investing in streets are important.’”
The proposed increase in the general fund would push the overall rate from the current 68.543 mills to 80 mills in the 2022 budget.
The city will hold two public hearings in conjunction with its regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16, at Memorial Hall, located at 411 11th Street in Osawatomie. The first will cover a proposal to exceed the revenue neutral rate of 63.236 mills. The hearing will be followed by the regular budget hearing.
The council voted unanimously to put the sales tax question on the November ballot. Council member Kenny Diehm cast the only “no” vote regarding the budget.
The community’s assessed valuation increased from roughly $24.7 million estimated for 2021 to an estimated $26.8 million for the proposed 2022 budget.
“It’s somewhere between $12 and $15 a month for the average home [in Osawatomie],” Scanlon said of the proposed higher mill rate, when factoring in the assessed valuation increase.
“It’s a 10-year plan, but what we’re trying to do is shrink it down to three to five years,” Scanlon said. “The more of that you can get done, the more you can avoid construction inflation in years six, seven, eight, nine and ten.
“So our goal is if we can raise or have available to us about $8.75 million, we can make a big difference in some of the streets in overall street conditions,” he said. “Main’s in pretty good shape. Sixth needs a lot of attention; parts of Brown need a lot of attention.”
Scanlon said the city also is going to start its water plant investigation committee back up, and start looking at water distribution replacement.
“There is no better time when you’re taking all these street projects to also be replacing water lines at the same time because you get economies of scale,” he said. “So the goal in the next three to five years is to make a dent in replacing our water lines and replacing those streets that need to be replaced and restoring those streets that can be restored.”
Scanlon said he realizes the proposal is a bold move.
“As I told the council, you have to go all in,” Scanlon said. “You have to commit the resources, commit the staff and the time, and that’s how you make a difference.”
Scanlon said there are a lot of streets that need attention, and they will continue to decay over time until they are at point of no return and require full replacement.
Scanlon and the council’s first initiative was cleaning up the community, starting with improving trash collection.
“Everybody’s going to get their trash cleaned up. The landlords will have a landlord program that will be introduced in November and becomes effective in January,” Scanlon said. “So we’ve made a pretty good dent in the first goal.”
The second goal is to repair and maintain streets. The third goal is economic development, followed by housing of all types and infrastructure.
Scanlon said the city of Osawatomie doesn’t have all the revenue sources that some other communities might have, so property taxes is what the city will have to lean on in the beginning.
“Over time, it would be great if we could increase the sales tax that’s available to us. But right now it’s going to be property tax that carries it,” Scanlon said. “But the good news is streets and sidewalks all tie to homes and businesses.”
He encouraged residents to consider the street proposal with an open mind.
“While you might be mad about it, don’t be so mad if you know we’re dedicating it to that purpose, and you can look at it each year to make sure that we’re spending what we say we can spend on streets and sidewalks and things like that,” he said.