The street sweeper makes its rounds in Lindsborg on Fridays, and in our neighborhood we usually see it around noon – usually, we say, because the timing can change given the weather, or mechanical glitches, or a number of other imponderables.
We hear it first somewhere down the block, the iconic Allianz flexing its muscles with a brawny hiss, brushes rolling over the pavement, vacuum groaning, a great white block of a machine, driver at the controls in a glassed box, like a captain in the bridge of a high gun boat. The street sweeper is all power and bulk and noise but it’s remarkably nimble, dodging vehicles and other obstacles along the street, darting into corners, spinning quickly into a cut-out or around a cul-de-sac and out onto the road’s other side in what seems a single motion. And in its wake, a clean street. Bricks shined, pavement spiffed.
One of the first things that newcomers mention about this town is how clean and neat it looks. Most people who live here will nod, yes, it’s a tidy place, starting with well-scrubbed roads. Credit the gun boat, and the city that owns it, the government that makes it happen.
The Lindsborg Public Works Department is composed of five divisions, also called departments, and their crews operate mostly behind the scenes. During the week that ran into the first of this month, Street Department crews were busy trimming trees, and during the rains placing barricades to keep traffic from flooded roadways; catch basins were cleaned, unplugged.
The water department agenda included some valve replacements, the electric department was also trimming trees, and the wastewater (sewage treatment) department was converting work order processing to ultra-tech (tablet and smart phone) and has begun employee training – that, in addition to managing the treatment plant, its lab, its labyrinth of machinery, all to ensure a safe disposal process, and clean water. At the main office, maps must be loaded onto new operating systems, along with the usual technical hang-ups. This, for openers.
Keep in mind all the office work and shop duties, reports and record-keeping, the equipment repair and maintenance, in addition to the daily obligations that we can see, the crews on their machines, at the work sites, rolling from one assignment to the next. To a man and woman in Public Works, from the labs at water treatment to the bridge of that gun boat and in-between, each has a crucial role in the choreography that makes a clean and tidy town.
EARLIER this summer, Greg DuMars, the city administrator, was finishing work on a draft of the city’s $2.7 million operating budget for next year. At hand was a study of current local tax rates for first- and second-class cities in Kansas. DuMars said, in a memo, that “we compare very favorably both county and statewide.” For that one, he deserves a Pulitzer Prize for understatement.
According to the numbers in this report, Lindsborg’s city property tax levy is second lowest among levies for the eight cities in McPherson County, and lowest for total taxes (city, county, schools, state and specials). The local property tax raises about a third of the city’s operating revenue. The rest comes from a local sales tax, fees and other assessments.
Statewide, Lindsborg’s total property tax ranks 7th among those reported for 138 first and second-class cities in Kansas.
Here are the numbers for McPherson County, rankings by city property tax levy, followed by total tax:
- Moundridge – $31.706 ($31.706 per $1,000 assessed valuation); total tax, $123.19;
- Lindsborg – $43.617 ($43.617 per $1,000 assessed valuation); total tax, $122.147;
- Galva – $47.843, $154.563;
- Canton – $50.39; $156.41;
- McPherson – $51.57; $140.143
- Windom – $60.116; 143.395;
- Marquette – $61.461; $149.551;
- Inman – $67.049; $162.38
Statewide, property levies for city budgets are a broad sweep, from $12.85 (per $1,000 assessed valuation) in Overland Park to $95.322 in Osborne. For city taxes only, Lindsborg places 58th among 1st and 2nd class cities.
For total tax levies, the range statewide is from $112.609 in Hays to $238.472 in Oswego; As mentioned, Lindsborg’s total levy, $122.147 per $1,000 assessed valuation, places 7th among the state’s 138 first and 2nd class cities.
Given the near-bankruptcy of state finance brought on by the governor and his legislative co-conspirators, and the resulting pressure on local budgets, Lindsborg’s municipal budget is a masterwork of enterprise and efficiency. We citizens own a great deal to local government, the one that keeps the gun boat alive and working, among so many other services, in Little Sweden.