Alva Review-Courier -

Administrator leaves and 2020 budget `discrepancies' questioned at Kiowa City Council

• City of Kiowa mill levy to decrease slightly; however, appraised value of property increased


As expected, the first Kiowa City Council meeting just days after former City Administrator Lou Leone's moving van left town did not run without a few glitches. There were several questions: such as who would people answer to or ask questions of for the numerous big ongoing projects started by Leone in the interim until a new administrator is hired.

Leone was to have the 2020 proposed city budget finished before he left. Mayor Bill Watson said he and Leone went over his draft of the 2020 budget. The mayor told the Newsgram that the “council didn't like his (Leone's) proposed budget.” Apparently Leone had transferred money within accounts that was not to everyone's liking.

One source of contention is the budget for the Kiowa Police Department – specifically, funding for the third police officer who the council approved hiring (with two councilmembers voting no) this spring. At previous meetings when hiring a third officer was discussed, Leone repeatedly commented that money was available for the hire.

At the July meeting when numerous councilmembers and the city clerk were speaking at once, one said that some of Leone's transfers of money within accounts of various departments would provide money for the third officer hire. There was discussion that about $50,000 was allotted to the fire department budget the last three years and they generally spent only $15 to $18,000 (mainly to the equipment fund) annually. The remainder of that $50,000 goes back to the general fund and then can go elsewhere if needed.

As the budget was addressed at the meeting, Kiowa Police Chief Nate Houston said when he saw the KPD budget prepared by Leone, “There were discrepancies in our budget.” The chief said, “It shows our salaries going down about $8200 per person and that was never discussed.” Each officer would be limited to 84 hours for a two week pay period, Houston said.

“This leaves the police budget totally short,” Brewer said. The KPD could purchase no equipment next year. Councilmembers were heard saying with those cuts the police couldn't even buy fuel for their vehicles.

When giving his monthly report, Chief Houston handed council members a statement regarding a USDA grant for the KPD 2019 Chevrolet Silverado SSV he had considered. It said, “Due to just recently getting the 2015 department truck upfitted I decided to terminate the grant application. The grant offered 45 percent cost covered but left the city with 55 percent, which would’ve been taken from the equipment reserve account. The 2015 currently has 42,000 miles and not all equipment currently would’ve retrofitted into a 2019 so I made the decision to halt this application. This new vehicle would’ve been a replacement to the 2015 truck and not an additional truck, but the equipment in the 2015 is new and some of the equipment may not have fit in the 2019 i.e. cage, radar power supply, and possibly more. I didn’t feel it necessary to purchase more equipment when what we currently have is new and effective.”

Looking at budget-building figures, the mayor said the City of Kiowa's appraised value increased this year. He said the budget expenditures are increased by one and a half percent more than last year. This all goes into the formula that creates a mill levy for public entities and ultimately tax collections.

While appraised value of property increased, City of Kiowa customers will NOT see an increased mill levy. In fact, Watson said the mill levy will be “a fraction less than last year,” like 7/10ths of a drop. According to the Barber County Tax Schedule for 2018, the City of Kiowa's mill levy was 54.491.

The council said they are having all departments review their proposed budgets. They discussed hiring a separate auditor to review Leone's proposed budget. Since the meeting, Watson said the council has instead used an agency with the state who helps develop city budgets. That “auditing” service is free, he said.

The approved city budget is due to Barber County Aug. 25, Watson said. So, the city is in a time crunch because they must meet legal notice publications dates, etc., for the budget.

A special meeting was already planned to accept a bid on the city hall building project after the sealed bid opening July 18. That date is next Monday, July 22. Watson said they'll most likely add the city budget to that meeting agenda. The remainder of the Kiowa City Council July meeting will run in separate stories.

City officials present at the July meeting included: Mayor Watson; councilmen Russ Molz, Brian Hill, Tom Wells, Brent Shaffer and R.L. Simpson; City Clerk Trish Brewer, City Attorney Brandon Ritcha; Police Chief Nate Houston; Street Superintendent John Duvall. The public section was full of residents. City Council candidates (for the November election) Kevin Wise and BJ Duvall also attended.


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