City commission approves five-year financial plan

Jordan Meier
Morning Sun

PITTSBURG, Kan. — City of Pittsburg financial officials presented the city commission Tuesday with a five-year financial forecast. 

Finance Director Larissa Bowman and Deputy Finance Director Joe Wimmer presented an optimistic plan projecting growth and stability for the city even following a year of turbulent economic struggles due to COVID-19.  

“We feel that the financial impact of COVID-19 is behind us,” Bowman said, “so as we built this, we saw that our community was very resilient through the past year in supporting our local economy.” 

According to Bowman the city was able to add to its fund reserves during 2020 and she projects that by the end of next year revenue levels will return to pre-pandemic levels.  

Bowman said when projecting a financial forecast, they focus on the areas outlined by the community, particularly by Imagine Pittsburg 2030, which include housing, economic development, public wellness, infrastructure, education and communication.  

“As we project the future, the city uses priorities and input from the community,” Bowman said.  

According to Wimmer, in 2020 the city was able to bring in $35.3 million in revenue, with the three main streams of revenue coming from utility payments, sales tax and property tax.  

Wimmer said they predict minimal growth for property tax for the next five years, with the current mill rate for the citizens sitting at 156.783 mills.  

“Approximately one third of that going to the city, one third going to USD 250 and then one third going to the county,” Wimmer said.  

The mill rate refers to a calculation used to determine/assess property values and taxes. According to the Tax Foundation, a tax policy think tank, a mill refers “to one one-thousandth of a dollar, and in property tax terms is equal to $1.00 of tax for each $1,000 of assessment.”  

Sales tax, another big source of revenue for the city—which currently sits at 9 percent with the city getting 1.5 percent of the collected revenue— is projected to increase revenue by 2 percent annually over the next five years according to Bowman.  

The funds collected from sales tax will help fund public safety, street maintenance, economic development, capital outlay and Memorial Auditorium.  

The last major leg of revenue for the city is utility payments, namely water, which according to Wimmer services 8,500 resident and commercial customers. Wimmer said they are recommending a one percent increase to the storm water utility rates and a three percent increase to the water and wastewater utility rates to help fund the wastewater treatment plant project.  

Bowman also said they are recommending “increasing utility rates three percent annually for the years 2022 through 2025.” 

The forecast also outlined potential expenditures for the city, which spent $32 million in 2020 and mostly focused money on public safety, utilities and debt services.  

Additionally, the plan outlines that the city currently has $30 million in debt, but also project that it will be paid off by 2032.  

“This mainly comprises of our [general obligation] bonds and special assessment bond that we have for the casino,” Bowman said.  

On the tail end of a pandemic, Bowman and Wimmer are confident that the city has weathered the storm and come out stronger on the other side.  

“The pandemic brought a lot of uncertainty,” Bowman said, “but the city feels like we’ve weathered that storm and we continue to see growth in our community.”  

The plan was unanimously approved by the commission.  

Jordan Meier is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. She can be reached at jmeier@morningsun.net