Cover Photo: The City Budget proposes reduced hours for The Bay Water Park on Longview Rd.
A look at the 2020-21 City Budget Proposal
By John Sharp
Citizens were invited to give their feedback on KCMO’s proposed $1.73 billion budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year starting May 1 at a public budget hearing from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, February 29, in the multipurpose room of the Southeast Community Center, 4201 E. 63rd St.
Another budget hearing will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 3, in the Kansas City Health Department, 2400 Troost, and a third hearing is being held in the Northland.
Budget hearings are normally attended by the mayor and almost all members of the City Council, so they provide a good opportunity for residents to voice their opinions about what city services should be given top priority for funding directly to the Mayor and Council members.
The city manager, department heads and experts on various city services also attend so questions can usually be answered on the spot.
The proposed budget was presented to the City Council on February 13 by Mayor Quinton Lucas and Acting City Manager Earnest Rouse. It is scheduled to be adopted by the Council on March 26.
It projects revenue growth of 3.7 percent due primarily to growth in earnings tax and property tax revenue and a smaller increase in sales tax revenue. Revenue from the Water Services and Aviation Departments which can only be spent for their services is projected to increase 1.5 percent.
A proposed increase in funding for the Police Department would allow it to hire five more officers at the start of the fiscal year and five additional officers plus two social media analysts at midyear. Money also is included in the proposed budget to fully fund the six social workers assigned to the Department’s six patrol divisions plus a supervisor.
Proposed additional funding for the Fire Department to match a federal grant would allow it to hire 15 more fire fighters and restaff a temporarily closed fire station in the Northland. The proposed budget does not include additional funding the Department had requested for replacing ambulances and other vehicles, but city residents will have an opportunity to vote April 7 on increasing the current quarter-cent fire sales tax to a half-cent effective January 1, 2021, with all the additional revenue going to the Department.
The proposed budget includes $4.8 million in additional funding for the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority to make up part of the revenue that will be lost by implementing free bus service.
It includes an $8 million increase in funding for street and public garage maintenance and total spending of $17 million on street resurfacing, a 70 percent increase from two years ago. It also proposes creation of a “pothole czar” who will report directly to the city manager.
A blow to south Kansas City included in the proposed budget is a major reduction of operating hours for The Bay Water Park on Longview Rd. that is projected to save $130,000. Before cutting back on the hours the Water Park is open, it might make more sense to beef up promotion and advertising for it to increase attendance which several of us have unsuccessfully urged the Parks & Recreation Department to do for years.
Persons may go online to view a summary of the budget for the entire 623-page document.