City Commission seeks to continue economic development

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The Manhattan City Commission work session held on Tuesday was spent reviewing and discussing economic development expenditures and policies.

Jason Hilgers, deputy city manager, provided an overview, history and current snapshot of Manhattan city expenditures.

In 2012, the City Commission passed a sales tax initiative where the use of the sales tax would assist two economic development initiatives: traditional company incentives and projects along with infrastructure improvements and property tax relief.

Traditional company incentives and projects are where the city of Manhattan assists in economic development by aiding in the recruitment, retention and the growth of private businesses or other employers. Infrastructure improvements provide economic development by encouraging growth and making the Manhattan community more attractive for business to relocate or expand, along with a broad range of projects to improve quality of life, according to resolution No. 082112-E of the City of Manhattan’s policy manual.

Hilgers presented the current forecasted distribution of funds to the commission. The commission has used the economic development fund for other investments such as Downtown Manhattan Inc., Wolf House and the Manhattan Arts Council. The funding for these other investments are discretionary, meaning the funding for them is at the discretion of the commission, but the commission has funded them on an annual basis.

The funding for the other investments, at the current time, has been forecasted into the future budgets.

“We spent a lot of our economic development money on land building assets, and a majority of this is the KSU-IC building that the city owns,” Hilgers said, referring to the 10-year period between 2002 and 2012.

The budget forecast looks at committed and uncommitted funds. Committed funds reflect the airport project, North Manhattan (referring to a roadway and park project), K-18 Highway and other projects the commission has budgeted for the future. Uncommitted funds are based off of the funds left over after the committed funds are subtracted from the total revenue projected from 10 years of sales tax.

If any expenditures are left out or added, that is not already forecasted, it could be an increase on resident’s property tax Hilgers explained.

“I do think at this point we need to look at some of our roads and bridges,” Karen McCulloh, city commissioner, said in reference to the budget forecast and the need to take advantage of low interest rates and low asphalt prices. “The longer you go before you fix things, the more expensive it is, so we have to balance that.”

The meeting continued looking at budgetary forecasts and how the infrastructure would be used, what future commissions would be interested in funding and how changes in future budgets would affect property taxes.

When the commission opened the work session to public comments, Manhattan citizen Dennis Mullin, relayed his concern to the commission looking at economic dollars. He cautioned the commission, explaining to them how they do not know when the next economic opportunity will come. He also said as they move forward in spending money, “We can’t see the future.”

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