The city of Derby is seeking revenue sources other than traditional property taxes, as it looks to a future without rapid commercial growth.
“As a society, we can all see things coming down the pike,” said Tom Haynes, city council member. “So we have to look for new funding opportunities.”
During a city budget workshop on June 5, the council looked at several ideas for new revenue. They include a monthly stormwater utility fee, new sales taxes and a tax increment financing district.
City Manager Kathy Sexton proposed a stormwater utility fee as a way to create a proactive system of maintaining the city’s storm sewer infrastructure. The utility would work to maintain the storm sewer infrastructure, the city’s retention ponds and spillways and work to control erosion.
A stormwater utility was cited during the council’s annual retreat as one of the most important items for city staff to work on, she said. Since that time, a code enforcement officer has been moved to stormwater duty and is working to create a data base of all the structures used for storm run-off, she said.
With the formation of the utility, the city could defer fewer drainage projects, educate the public on stormwater issues and study the needs of areas such as the Spring Creek Watershed.
Since 1996 the city has had one position in the Public Works Department to inspect, clean and clear debris from the city’s natural drainage channels – Spring Creek and Dry Creek. While the city has grown significantly since 1996, the personnel to monitor the drainage channels has not, Sexton said.
The work of a stormwater utility, though, will take money. With a projected $550,800 budget, and a year in which new funding appears to be slim, there has to be a source of money.
To that end, a $3 per month Stormwater Utility Fee has been proposed for every residential unit in the city. A scale would be used to determine the fee for commercial users.
The $3 per month fee would raise an estimated $550,830, Sexton said.
At least 26 other communities in Kansas have a stormwater utility and collect user fees. Those range from $1 per month in Hutchinson to $9.50 in Prairie Village. Current fees, according to the budget report, are: El Dorado, $3; Hutchinson, $1; Valley Center, $1; Wichita $2; Winfield, $2; and Arkansas City, $3.
Of concern to several on the council is the potential cost to the community’s large users. Sexton said the estimated cost to Derby Public Schools would be $43,500 per year. The city’s churches would also contribute nearly $31,000 to the project.
Under the proposal, the fee in Derby would be implemented on Jan. 1. No decision was made on the utility or fees and Chuck Warren, council member, said the subject needs extensive discussion, either as a separate workshop or as an agenda item for a council meeting.
Sexton will take feedback from council members before proceeding with the proposal.
As part of the stormwater effort, Sexton also proposed a $50,000 contribution toward a Spring Creek Watershed study to be done by Sedgwick County. The study has been proposed by the county, in addition to a drainage study impacting several communities in the northern part of the county.
The city receives many complaints from Spring Creek area residents due to drainage problems, she said.
“It will be worse if we don’t get good data,” she said.
While the county has not asked for the $50,000 contribution from the city, Sexton said no other community would be as widely impacted or benefit from the study.
“The data we would gather would be used for years ... decades” by engineers and builders, she said.
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