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Florence among Kansas' lowest-income cities

Staff writer

Florence was the eighth-lowest income city in Kansas from 2012 to 2017, with a median income of $25,365 per household, according to a recent study.

“It’s probably tough on a lot of people around here,” mayor Bob Gayle said.

The city’s median income jumped to $26,250 for 2017, but still ranked well below other cities in Marion County, according to Data USA, a website that tracks population and income data.

A community with a similar population to Florence like Goessel has an advantage because of proximity to larger communities, resident Mark Slater said.

“Goessel has a stronger economy because you have a school and grocery store,” he said. “You have a lot more things there, and they’re closer to Hesston, closer to Newton.”

Compared to Florence, Goessel’s citizens earned nearly twice as much, with the median household earning $50,625.

There are ways to help citizens in a city with a lower-income population, said Trayce Warner, a city councilman and county commission candidate.

The city applied for a grant where 51% of population had to be within low-to-moderate income to qualify, but Warner said a survey at the time said Florence had 56%.

“In that respect, it does help to qualify for more grants,” she said. “But when we do things like increase rates for different services, we have to consider that we have a lot of people on a fixed income.”

Florence’s distance from jobs is reflected in the time its citizens spend on the road.

“Most people who live in Florence are driving 30 to 60 miles to work every day,” Slater said.

Driving that far limits the number of jobs that are worth the money, Warner said.

“If you have to drive 30 miles to Newton or El Dorado for work, you have to factor in transportation to how much you can make,” she said. “You can’t take a $9 an hour job and drive back-and-forth five days a week.”

Programs like Meals on Wheels and carpools to the doctor’s office are important in a city like Florence, Warner said.

Staying upbeat and actively limiting the mindset that nothing can get better is key to aiding a city with low-income residents, she said. “When you hear the city talking about $100,000, it just seems huge,” she said.

“I understand that perspective, maybe better than people who have been well-off their whole lives.”

Last modified Sept. 25, 2019

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