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  • Writer's pictureRoger Sims, Journal Staff

La Cygne council votes to exceed revenue-neutral tax rate

By Roger Sims, Journal staff

LA CYGNE – The La Cygne City Council on Wednesday, July 5, voted to notify the Linn County Clerk’s office that the city’s budget will exceed the revenue-neutral amount determined by the county clerk for 2024.

The council gave approval to a budget that increased ad valorem tax to $559,500 by nearly $14,000 over the 2023 budget of $545,600. That translates into a mill levy for 2024 of slightly more than 72 mills, down from the current mill levy of 74.7 mills for 2023.

The revenue-neutral mill levy for the city would be 70.25 mills. Although City Clerk Jodi Wade gave the council the option of a $29,000 increase with a levy of 74 mills, she also pointed out that the council could use reserve funds to reduce the levy, a recommendation the council decided to follow.

The city’s valuation for 2024 increased to nearly $7.77 million, up more than $460,000 from the 2023 valuation of $7.3 million.

A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of assessed property valuation. Kansas has a statewide assessment percentage of 11.5% for residences, so a house with an appraised market value of $100,000 would have a tax assessment value of $11,500. If the tax rate on that residence is one mill, the tax levied would be $11.50. One mill raises about $6,000 in taxes for the city, according to Wade.

The council voted to conduct a hearing on its decision to exceed the revenue neutral rate and the budget at 6 p.m. on Aug. 23.

In other business, the council on a 4-1 vote approved spending about $21,200 to outfit a new 2023 Dodge Durango police vehicle with law enforcement equipment. That included a $2,250 canine cool-guard protection system requested by Police Chief Tina Fenoughty.

The council initially gave Fenoughty a budget of $60,000 to purchase and equip a new patrol vehicle. About $48,000 was spent on the vehicle itself, and Fenoughty asked the council to approve a total of about $70,000 to outfit the new cruiser with equipment including light bars, weapon holder, a prisoner holding area plus nearly $3,800 for installation. That estimate by Louisburg-based Multiplicity did not include the cost of a radio.

The discussion took a different turn as the council was discussing a request by Fenoughty to purchase a $2,250 canine cool-guard protection system. That system would keep Angel, an American bully support dog that often accompanies Fenoughty, cool in the case of an engine failure.

Fenoughty said that, with the exception of the canine cool-guard system, the equipment was the standard law enforcement package used by other agencies in the area. However, at least two council members openly questioned.

“I don’t have a problem with the dog,” said Councilman Danny Curtis, “I just don’t want to spend the money.” That was a sentiment expressed by Councilman David Brenneman as well. Brenneman’s vote was the sole “no” vote on the issue.

Council members Keith Stoker and Jerome Mitzner said they had seen the good the dog could do. Stoker called the canine a “useful tool.”

Mitzner said that he was concerned at what would happen to the dog if the engine shut down unexpectedly.

And while mayor Debra Wilson didn’t disagree with the value of Angel in dealing with the public, she pointed out that the council had never discussed the use of Angel as an official support dog for the department.

Fenoughty talked about how the dog had been trained, and while she was willing to provide for most of the dog’s needs, she suggested the city should probably get liability insurance for about $300 a year, the same cost as if she was a drug dog.

The police chief said the dog had accompanied her into La Cygne Elementary School several times as well as trips to Prairie View middle and high schools. She also said that the dog had snuggled with a teen who had been deemed a suicide risk.

She also suggested that the council approve swearing in Angel to the police force. Doing that would give the dog extra protection against those who might want to intentionally hurt her, Fenoughty said. By making the dog a part the city’s police force would elevate any move to hurt her from a misdemeanor to a felony.

The council was in agreement that the dog could be sworn in but did not formalize it with a motion.

The council also heard a request by resident James McCarson to clarify what the city mows and what the homeowner mows. McCarson asked if the city shouldn’t be responsible for controlling noxious weeds outside of the property lines.

Mayor Debra Wilson said that the property owner’s responsibility extended into the right of way.

Public Works supervisor Dan Nasalroad told McCarson that in most cases, the property owner maintains setbacks from property lines. After McCarson said that there were mounds of dirt left over from construction in the area that made it difficult to mow, Nasalroad said he would look at the problem.

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