South KC Perspective
City Budget Will Avoid Staff Layoffs
By John Sharp
The proposed $1.73 billion KCMO city budget for fiscal year 2021-22 submitted to the City Council by Mayor Quinton Lucas and City Manager Brian Platt totals $36.8 million less than this fiscal year’s adopted budget and reflects a nearly $70 million expected shortfall in revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite this significant drop in revenue, the submitted budget was able to avoid staff layoffs and mandatory furloughs, but does include a hiring freeze for vacant positions with salaries over $15 an hour except for uniformed Fire Department personnel which could cause increases in overtime pay likely to exceed any salary savings from a freeze. It also does not include funding for any salary increases for non-represented employees.
The budget significantly increases funding for street resurfacing and provides funding to continue recent enhancements of the city’s snow plowing operations. It also includes $15.5 million for long-awaited improvements at 11 fire stations and the Fire Academy, computer upgrades for the Department’s vehicles and new radios funded through the new fire sales tax approved last June by city voters.
The budget decreases funding for most city departments including the Police Department.
Earnings tax revenue is projected to decrease $22.9 million from this fiscal year’s adopted budget which includes reserving $12.6 million for refunds to non-residents who are employed by businesses and organizations in the city but will be working remotely from their residences.
Savings to at least partially offset the decreases in revenue caused by the pandemic include transitioning to in-house trash removal and leaf and brush collection throughout the city, converting more streetlights to energy-efficient LED lights, merging more administrative services with the Police Department to improve efficiency, negotiating reductions in healthcare insurance for city employees and voluntary early retirement incentives.
While the budget contains no increase in water or stormwater charges, it does include a 6% increase in wastewater charges.
Persons may go online to kcmo.gov/budget to view the submitted budget in its entirety and the accompanying transmittal letter from the mayor and city manager.
Three public meetings are scheduled in the next two weeks on the budget to allow residents to express their questions and concerns to city elected officials and staff. Virtual meetings are scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, February 20, and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 2. There was no direct link to these meetings posted at kcmo.gov/budget at press time, but a city flyer listed the ZOOM webinar site as https://us02web.zoom.us/j/ and the meeting ID for the first meeting as 84171402158 and the meeting ID for the second meeting as 83589032386.
An in-person public meeting with temperature checks on arrival and masks and social distancing required will be from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, February 27, at Municipal Arena, 301 W. 13th St. Doors will open at 8:30.
Persons unable to attend the meetings may email their thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org and put “proposed budget” in the subject line.
The City Council Finance, Governance & Public Safety Committee will conduct public hearings on the budget on February 24, March 3 and March 17 before its adoption by the full City Council on March 25.
John Sharp is a former city councilman and state legislator for south Kansas City.