BY KAREN LA PIERRE

klapierre@dailynews.net

The Hays city budget is set at $35.8 million for 2015, approximately $175,168 less than the 2014 budget, to fund city services, such as the fire department, police department, parks, public works, water and sewer. The mill levy will remain constant at 25 mills.

The city is funded through sources such as sales tax, property taxes, franchise fees, solid waste and water/sewer fees, state funds, and special taxes such as the transient guest tax and the alcohol liquor fee.

City employees will receive a one-time 2 percent bonus in 2015.

The 2015 budget is based upon an anticipated slight decline in sales tax revenue and a slight decrease in the water and sewer tax collection, which will be somewhat offset by increased revenue from other sources.

"The diversity of revenues ensures minimal decreases in large revenue sources do not hinder services," said Paul Briseno, assistant Hays city manager in an email.

The city will keep the number of employees stable, maintain adequate reserves, and pay cash for large projects. The city paid off the Welcome Center in 2014.

City leaders plan to maintain a balanced budget without increasing the mill levy or increasing the solid waste fees. The city's total valuation has increased 2.7 percent.

The total mill levy assessment for Hays including the county, school, recreation commission, library and city is 110.3 mills.

Of this, the city of Hays lvies approximately 18.6 mills and 6.4 mills for the library for a total of 25 mills. The mill levy is taxes collected from property owners and has remained level for the city of Hays for seven years.

"The city of Hays holds the lowest mill outside of Johnson County," Briseno said. "The valuation has traditionally increased, therefore expanding revenue."

The city of Hay's 2015 valuation shows an increase of $5.4 million from 2014.

One other area that has assisted the city in keeping taxes steady is by capping employee health insurance costs since 2010.

The city plans several capital improvement projects, including work on 13th street Main to Milner, airport runway rehabilitation and levee repairs for this upcoming year.

Projects planned for within the operating budgets include police car cameras, a snow plow and the water conservation program.

"We always budget from a pessimistic standpoint rather than optimistic," in planning for both growth and declines so that slight decreases will not hinder services to the public, said Hays City Manager Toby Dougherty. "We do know we are growing as a community and the cost of goods are going up," which is why the drop in sales tax collection is puzzling.

The city anticipates a continued slight decline in sales tax revenue. The sales tax collected has leveled off or declined from a high of $7,313,534 in 2012.

Projections for 2014 indicate that they may be slightly down. The cause is unknown, although it may be related to Internet sales, Dougherty said.

Water sales have also been budgeted for an anticipated decrease.

"We were in a drought and people were conservative utilizing less water," Dougherty said. "The less water you use, the less your sewer revenues are."

There will be no rate increase for solid waste, and the last increase was in 2006.

"The city projects out 5-10 years to ensure the budget is sustainable," Briseno said. "Taking advantage of sound financial practices, the plan is to maintain a 25 mill levy.

"The commission's objective of ensuring measures are taken to limit the impact on property taxes is upheld."