Tired of being blamed for the actions of city councils from decades past, Peabody City Council members voted to increase taxes by 4.7 percent and begin a course of reclaiming the city’s 100-year-old water and sewer system.
“I know we talked about trying to keep the mill levy close to where it has been the past few years,” Councilman Travis Wilson said, “But we have said at almost every meeting since I’ve been on here that we need to start doing something about our water.
“There are only two ways for the city to raise money — increase water and sewer fees or raise the mill levy. With the school mill levy dropping by 12 mills, I think we should approve a small increase and at least get started on doing something about the water and sewer problems.”
A 2016 budget presented by city auditor Dale Clark had. The budget included a slight increase of 1 percent, previously agreed to by council members in budget workshops, but nothing to begin repairing water and sewer lines.
“People already complain about what they pay for water and sewer. If we increase their monthly charges to raise funds for infrastructure repair, they are really going to be steamed,” Wilson said. “Going up another two mills when the school’s levy is coming down seems like the thing to do. It won’t be a painful increase. If we don’t start work on water now, when will we?”
Clark reminded council members that a mill levy increase cannot be specifically tied to one project. The money can, however be budgeted to the general fund with a provision that it go into capital improvement at the end of the year if necessary.
“I’ll make that motion,” said Councilwoman Megan Holt.
Holt, Wilson, and Tom Spencer voted in favor of the two-mill increase. Steve Rose voted against it. Janice Woodruff was absent.
For the city, a mill is equivalent to about $4,300.
A public budget hearing will be at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 10 in the city building.
In other business:
John Hoskinson of BG Consultants addressed council members about the grant from Kansas Department of Transportation for a directional sign into Peabody at the corner of 9th and Peabody sts. Council members agreed to a final bid-letting date of Aug. 21. Project completion is planned for October.
The council approved purchase of cameras and hardware support, installation, and training for Peabody Police officers.
After an executive session with Police Chief Bruce Burke, the council voted to hire court clerk applicant Erin Rousseau. She will be offered a starting salary of $12 per hour, with a probationary period and $0.50 per hour increase to follow.