Lee’s Summit Budget Committee restores spending for beautification, arts and economic development

rpulley@lsjournal.comMay 10, 2013 

  • $200 million city budget to be heard by Lee’s Summit City Council on May 16

Lee’s Summit’s Budget Committee and city manager decided pinching pennies costs too much.

The City Council subcommittee unanimously voted May 8 to send a revised budget proposal to the full council which restores spending which was being cut in 2013-14 for several civic groups, two city boards and the employee holiday party.

City Manager Steve Arbo agreed with the committee’s suggestion to amend his proposed budget by adding $62,500 to the general fund.

The city’s overall budget is $200 million, but discussion for several months focused on cuts for the operating budget, or general fund, with a goal of taking it down to $58.2 million. The budget is more than $59 million this year. It was a goal agreed on by Arbo and the committee because of declining revenues to the general fund.

The proposed general fund budget for 2013-14 is now nearly $58.4 million.

Arbo noted that if trends continue, such as sluggish sales tax receipts, the city will have to make about $600,000 in cuts next year to keep a healthy fund balance. The full council will have a public hearing on the budget May 16. The 2013-14 fiscal year starts July 1.

Arbo asked city departments to carve their proposed budgets by 2 percent compared to this year.

Arbo and the committee restored a $10,000 cut from the general fund revenue allocations to the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council, Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street Inc. The city used about $62,000 from its general fund this year to supplement the Business and Industry tax that provides about $370,000 the city uses for contracts with those groups to provide economic development services.

The Lee’s Summit Beautification Commission had its budget restored after it was slashed by $36,000. The Lee’s Summit Arts Council had its budget restored, except for $7,500 for summer concerts which was being covered by a private donation.

Councilmember Bob Johnson, committee chair, had asked Beautification Commission Chair Kim Fritchie to speak to the committee about relieving at least part of the cuts. Without restoring some money, Fritchie said, one project the commission would delay is plantings for the area of Blue Parkway and Third Street in its Adopt-A-Spot program.

“That’s a pivotal spot in Lee’s Summit,” Fritchie said “It is probably one of the worst looking intersections in the city.”

During the committee of the beautification budget Councilmember David Mosby said he could support giving it more money, if the committee looked at the other affected groups in as much depth.

He wondered if that was the best way to proceed.

“It’s like putting some one up against the wall and saying we’re going to poke you, how far do you want us to go?” Mosby said.

Mosby asked Arbo if there was better solution.

Arbo said if it is the city’s policy that spending for the arts and beautification are important for encouraging pride and citizen participation, he would go along with restoring money to the programs. Arbo also gave the committee a short report on the council’s travel budget. Councilmembers only used about $12,575 of $35,500 set aside for travel this year. The rest will carry over to next year and Arbo doesn’t expect the council to use the full amount in 2013-14. That could help offset the restored spending, he said.

Councilmember Allan Gray said that the council had made economic development a priority in its strategic plan and cutting allocations to the LSEDEC, Chamber and Downtown Main Street were a mistake.

“It sends the wrong message if we’re cutting these organizations,” Gray said.

Johnson and Gray said the holiday party benefits morale.

After the committee voted to amend the budget Johnson asked for comments from the public.

“Thank you very much,” Fritchie said.

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