LS committee suggests culling travel to boost spending for economic development

rpulley@lsjournal.comMay 1, 2013 

  • More information $10,000 could be restored to allocation for civic groups promoting economic development

The Budget Committee reviewing Lee’s Summit’s spending plan for general operations in 2013-14 wants to tweak the city manager’s recommended budget. But the members have different ideas how.

Councilmember David Mosby wants to restore cuts to the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council, the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street that are recommended by City Manager Steve Arbo.

The committee heard hours of presentations from city departments on April 24 and 25. It is scheduled to begin work on its own recommendations to the City Council on Wednesday, May 8.

Arbo will present his budget of about $53 million to the council in June, along with the committee’s recommendation, and there will be a public hearing by the City Council Thursday, May 16. Under the Lee’s Summit City Charter Arbo drafts the city budget but the full council can amend it.

During the committee roundtable discussion members gave a hint of their thinking for issues they’ll talk about at their next meeting.

Mosby suggested using the City Council travel budget to add about $10,000 total back into contracts for the three groups for services they provide (by contract) for economic development.

“Those are three organizations more aligned to generating revenues than consuming revenues,” Mosby said.

Mosby said he was willing to give up the travel money if the council agrees to put funding back for the three so they got their full funding requests. The council travel budget for this year and proposed for next year, at this point, is $3,500 each for mayor and council members, or $31,500.

The proposed cuts compared to 2012-13:

• $60,000 to $58,341 or $1,659 less for Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street Inc.

• $50,700 to $49,298 or $1,402 less to the Chamber of Commerce

• $250,291 to $243,972 or $6,939 less to the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council

Mosby moved the council to make that recommendation.

Councilmember Allan Gray at an earlier meeting had proposed restoring funding cuts for the Lee’s Summit Arts Council mentioning the travel budget as a source.

Gray seconded Mosby’s motion, but clarified he was also interested in finding grant money for arts projects. Councilmember Rob Binney said that if the committee considers reinstating money for those groups, the Lee’s Summit Beautification Commission also should be included.

Committee chairman Bob Johnson said he was very unsure about what some agencies did to fulfill their contract to meet the city’s goals of economic development. He said he wanted more information before any vote on increasing funding.

“I’m certainly not ready to fully fund anybody of those three without having real questions answered about real productivity and real jobs,” Johnson said. He asked the committee to table the motion.

Arbo said cutting the travel budget could be painless to council, because there are typically unspent funds in the account at the end of each fiscal year. He said that when he decided on the cuts for the areas he controlled, and asked departments to find about 2 percent across the board, and included the civic groups, arts council and beautification commission partly to be symbolic. “Everybody took a haircut to get here,” Arbo said. Except he chose to leave the council’s travel budget alone.

Arbo said he liked the travel account as a source of funding to potentially increase the funding for those groups, if that was the direction the committee and council wanted to pursue.

He offered to give the committee a report on fully-funding the budget requests from those groups and the council travel budget.

The committee tabled Mosby’s motion until May 8.

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