Commissioners debate funding for affordable housing; convention center


Though future snow-related infrastructure repair expenditures are predicted to contribute to Manhattan’s already stretched city budget, the city’s overall debt is predicted to continue declining.

The Manhattan City Commission opened its meeting Tuesday night with the annual revenue survey. Hillary Badger, assistant director of finance, explained to commissioners what various taxes and grants city budget money comes from. The city budget exceeds $130 million, which is distributed to various departments and projects throughout the city. According to Badger, 75 percent of revenue from property taxes go directly to Riley County Police Department and the Manhattan Public Library.

Bernie Hayen, director of finance, then presented on the direction in which they would like to see the budget be used and debated changes in funding. Hayen addressed concern that the city debt is currently more than $273 million. Hayen said he anticipated that the debt will continue to decrease.

Commissioner Karen McCulloh questioned where the street budget stood after the heavy snow.

“We are a little bit over budget from where we expected to be,” Ron Fehr, city manager, said. “The bigger issue will be (in) coming years because of the melting and re-freezing of all the snow. Water gets in cracks in the roads, freezes and makes the cracks worse. I think we can expect to see more pot holes this spring.”

The newly planned downtown conference center and parking garage’s funding was also discussed. Commissioners debated whether to put the funding on a 15-year plan or to put it on a 20-year plan with the potential to pay it off early. The 20-year plan wouldn’t raise the mill levy as much, which Mayor Pro Tem Wynn Butler said he was in favor of. Commissioners approved the 20-year plan.

“I think the 20-year would be best to get us over the hump. Interest rates are really good right now and that way if we can pay it off early, great,” Mayor John Matta said.

The last item on the table was a request from the Manhattan Area Housing Partnership to waive building and utility attachment fees for a building for low-income residents. The waiver would equal approximately $24,000.

The Willow Creek complex would feature 12 two bedroom apartments, 12 three bedroom apartments and 4 four bedroom townhomes for a rental cost ranging from $415-750, depending on the income of the residents. Similar to the new Scenic Point complex, residents must fall between 40-60 percent of the average income in Manhattan.

Jill Jacoby, executive director of MAHP, spoke on behalf of the new complex and the benefits it will have to the community. Jacoby also explained that the organization would also be applying for grants to help lower costs. Currently Manhattan has 161 affordable housing units which have helped to combat homelessness and at-risk renters. Commissioners approved the waiver with a 4-1 vote.