Shawnee City Council approves mill levy increase, stormwater fee change
Shawnee residents will soon see an increase in property taxes and their stormwater fee.
At its meeting Monday night, with a vote of 5-4, the city council approved a mill levy increase to help construct and staff a new fire station and to add a police officer, street inspector and codes inspector.
The increase will increase the mill levy from 24.536 to 26.606, bringing in an additional $1.7 million to the city.
The council also voted 5-4 to double the city’s stormwater fee, raising it from $3 to $6 per month for homeowners.
The additional funds generated from the stormwater fee increase will be used towards addressing the city’s $114 million stormwater needs.
So, how will the changes affect the average homeowner?
According to Deputy City Manager Vicki Charlesworth, the average home in Shawnee is appraised at $238,526.
At the current mill rate, the average homeowner pays property tax of $56.09 a month and $3 a month in stormwater utility fees for a total of $59.09.
With the 2.07 mill levy increase, the average homeowner will pay an additional $4.73 per month, bringing it to $60.82. This combined with the increase in the stormwater fee will bring that number to $66.82 per month.
In other words: an additional $7.73 a month.
Councilmembers Dan Pflumm, Eric Jenkins, Mike Kemmling and Stephanie Meyer voted against both the mill levy and stormwater increases.
Mayor Michelle Distler was the tie-breaker on both issues.
Although nearly half of the council voted against the mill levy increase, they all agreed a new fire station for northwest Shawnee was vital.
But Jenkins and Kemmling stated they felt increasing the mill levy was the wrong way to go. They argued the fire station could have been funded in the upcoming 2017 budget by cutting other items.
Meyer, a strong advocate for the new fire station, initially made a motion to increase the mill levy by 1.77 mills to solely fund the new fire station, but the motion failed. She was against raising the mill levy any further to include the city worker positions.
Those who voted in favor of the mill levy increase said they felt the city worker positions were just as important as a new fire station.
“I have to pay the tax, too, and I’m not particularly happy about it, but in order to give citizens the level of services they deserve and respect, I’m for it,” Councilman Jim Neighbor said.
Councilman Brandon Kenig agreed, saying he felt the increase would help Shawnee in the long run.
“There’s no way that I would come back in a couple years and ask for another increase,” he said. “I see this as a once-in-a-decade vote.”
When it came to discussing stormwater, the council was similarly divided.
For Jenkins, his biggest concern was how the increased fee would affect Shawnee businesses, churches, schools and nonprofits. Those entities pay a stormwater fee based on parcel size.
“Doubling the fee doesn’t sound so bad for homeowners, but it severely impacts businesses,” he said. “They're going to take a real hard hit, and I'm concerned about that.”
Councilman Mickey Sandifer sympathized, but pointed out that doubling the fee was critical in order to address the city’s aging stormwater system.
Right now, the city has 179 miles of stormwater pipes, of which nearly 60 percent have exceeded their life expectancy.
Earlier this year, Shawnee Public Works Director Doug Whitacre informed the council that if the city didn’t start repairing those pipes, there could be major failures and emergency repairs, which could lead to flooding or road collapses.
“This is about getting ahead of the game, rather than waiting until the damage is done,” Sandifer told the council.
The stormwater fee increase will go into effect Jan. 1.