The Unified Government Commission is ironing out the final details in its budget. The commission will meet for a final budget hearing at 5 p.m. tonight, Monday, July 13.
“This is not even a no-frills budget,” Mayor David Alvey said at the July 9 budget workshop. “This is a cut in basic services budget.”
The public may make comments at the budget hearing Monday, which is a remote virtual meeting. It will be an internet and telephone meeting, which will be shown on UGTV on cable television and on YouTube.
Also on the agenda will be the Community Development 2020 Annual Action Plan and the substantial amendment to the Community Development 2019 Annual Action Plan.
Those who want to make a comment may make a comment by logging into the Zoom meeting. For more directions on making a comment, visit https://www.wycokck.org/BOC-Virtual-Meeting.aspx.
The UG Commission is scheduled to adopt a budget at 5 p.m. Thursday, July 16.
At the last budget workshop, a three-hour meeting at 4 p.m. July 9, the commission addressed several issues. Some of the issues included:
The commission heard a report from the chief financial officer, who stated that revised sales tax figures showed revenues were better than they had anticipated earlier. There are revenue declines in several areas.
Commissioner Harold Johnson asked if more revenues are coming in than expected, would some of that be applied to the cuts that were proposed.
UG Administrator Doug Bach, and the chief financial officer, said they were thinking about letting any extra funds “fall to the bottom line” and replace reserve funds.
Proposed changes and service cuts discussed
The UG administration went over proposed changes to the UG’s capital maintenance projects, with several projects delayed.
The UG administration also talked about proposed service cuts and reductions. Proposed cuts included 44 vacancies in the public works department, with the levelof service dropping on streets, according to UG officials.
Mowing and trash pickup at the parks could experience delays or interruptions, and recreation centers and programs would be cut back.
West patrol station could be closed
Bach said they are down about 77 persons in the police department currently.
The police department may have to close the west patrol station, according to Chief Michael York, with manpower reduced throughout the city. It could be combined with the midtown patrol station, according to Chief York.
School and traffic officers might have to be reassigned to stations. The two options, he said, were doing away with a patrol station and making one combined west-midtown patrol, or taking personnel from special units, community policing and traffic.
Chief York noted that Kansas City, Kansas, homicides were up 180 percent this year, with 28 recorded by July 9. Aggravated assaults were up 70 percent, and shootings into occupied vehicles were up 50 percent. Burglary increased by 26 percent, he added.
Total violent crime was up by 12 percent compared to this time last year, he said.
Police academy funding is being cut, and there are 24 positions not funded in the budget.
Residents might notice some changes, such as a phone-in report if a vehicle is broken into.
Commissioner Mike Kane said he thought it is not a good idea to close the west patrol station, and that a community survey supported public safety.
Commissioner Brian McKiernan said he did not want to see any reduction in police service.
District attorney proposes Community Integrity Unit
Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree talked about his proposal for a Community Integrity Unit in the DA’s office.
The unit would investigate complaints against the police, according to Dupree. He is asking for 2.5 law enforcement investigator positions to be assigned to the DA’s office for this program. The CIU would work on complaints against law enforcement officers in Kansas City, Kansas, Wyandotte County, Bonner Springs, and also at KU Health System and District 500, which have their own police forces.
Currently the CIU works on wrongful conviction cases, and this proposal would expand it.
Dupree said the proposed CIU would “get rid of the appearance of impropriety.” Currently, the complaints are investigated by the police agency involved. This would add an investigation outside of the agency.
The cost to the county would be $92,000 in 2020 and $260,000 in 2021, he said.
UG commissioners talked about funding 1.5 positions instead of the requested 2.5.
UG administration sticks by plan to close Fairfax fire station and open Piper fire station
The UG administration presented the same plan for the closing the Fairfax fire station and moving the personnel to the new Piper fire station. The administrator did not think the UG should take money to keep the Fairfax fire station open from reserve funds identified earlier by UG commissioners.
Commissioner Mike Kane proposed delaying the intersection improvements at Leavenworth Road and Hutton Road, and using the funding for the fire station. He also encouraged the local government to see if any funding could be used from the CARES Act.
Commissioner Gayle Townsend said she wondered if the extra coverage of Fairfax by the Quindaro fire station would mean that service would be reduced to the people who live in the Quindaro area, while crews are out covering calls in Fairfax.
The UG administrator maintained that their figures were correct that showed that crews could arrive at Fairfax within 4 minutes, figures which have been disputed by the Fairfax Industrial Association and Commissioner Kane.
According to Bach, if the UG puts a sales tax on the ballot this year for the fire station and public safety, the money would not be available until June of 2021.
Commissioner Tom Burroughs said they need to find funding for the fire station and also for the police department, and address the rise in crime now.
He agreed with Commissioner Kane that it’s the commission’s budget, and it’s the commission’s priorities. He said fire protection and emergency response to the industrial area is one of the most critical needs of the community.
Commissioner Melissa Bynum said the cost of staffing the new Piper station was $1.8 million, and they would probably need $900,000 to get through the end of this year. The station has already been built, and was scheduled to open in the summer.
Commissioner Kane asked to revisit some of these issues, including the fire station, and to discuss the possibility of a sales tax.
Mayor Alvey said at the July 9 meeting he sees UG employees going above and beyond constantly in spite of a lack of resources, and as the UG continues to reduce the budget because of a lack of funds, the community will feel that things are worse. He said all the departments are looking at expenditures, trying to maintain basic services and not fund services that are not needed.
Mayor Alvey said the data doesn’t suggest that the need for a fire station in Fairfax is great. Even before the COVID-19 budget, this would have been a good move, he said.
Details about today’s budget public hearing
To access the UG Commission meeting on Zoom, visit:
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To view the three-hour budget workshop on July 9, on YouTube, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiozqkyolHE.