By Kathy Feist
Kansas City voters–plus all Missouri voters– finally have a say on whether to increase minimal funding for the Kansas City police department from 20 to 25 percent of the City’s general revenue. Those figures translate into an annual budget of $154 million (20%) vs. $193 million (25%). The city’s current police budget is about $189 million.
Kansas City has the only police department in Missouri that is overseen by a state-appointed board made up of four local citizens and the mayor.
The state took control of the police department from Kansas City after the Pendergast political machine bust in the 1930s. Last year, in an effort to regain local control, Mayor Quinton Lucas and most of the city council cut designated funding to the police department by $84 million. It was later ruled as a violation of state law by a Jackson County judge. The city leaders’ move did nothing to regain trust among state lawmakers who passed a law this summer requiring the budget increase. Fearing their vote would violate the constitution’s unfunded mandate provision, lawmakers are putting the question before Missouri voters.
While the ballot wording says it “estimates no additional costs or savings related to this proposal,” according to the mayor, it is more than likely city taxpayers will be left paying the difference or experiencing cost cuts in other city government departments.
When making a choice, voters must take into consideration the increase in crime in their neighborhoods, the shortage of police staff, possible tax increases, local control vs state and even which government organization is more trustworthy.