Budget includes more street improvements

rpulley@lsjournal.comMay 24, 2013 

Lee’s Summit’s overall city budget is growing by about $23 million despite cuts in its operating budget.

“The reason for that is capital projects,” Finance Director Conrad Lamb told the Lee’s Summit City Council at a May 16 public hearing. “Bridges, streets and signals are where we’re doing a lot of work.”

Spending on capital improvements jumps from about $31 million to $61 million for the coming year, he said.

The council voted to draft an ordinance setting its spending plans for the fiscal year 2013-14 which begins July 1, after a public hearing with no comment from residents and short discussion by the council. The council’s Budget Committee spent nearly a dozen meetings reviewing the general fund and overall budget of about $200 million offered by City Manager Steve Arbo and had recommended approval.

Councilmember Bob Johnson, Budget Committee chair, said, “I didn’t agree with everything …overall this was a good common-sense budget.”

The city’s operating budget, or general fund, is being cut by about $1 million, but it is one of 70 separate pots of money the city uses to track its spending.

Some departments, such as the Water Utility, have their own sources of revenue and are accounted for separately from the general fund. Other separate funds include those for repaying debt, and “enterprise funds” such as the city landfill which brings the city’s total budget to about $200 million.

Arbo gave an overview of the budget.

He said about 72 percent of the about $58 million operating fund will pay for basic services such as police and fire and public works, with the remainder to administrative functions such as community development, accounting and information management.

The city this year began paring back in many areas in operations due to uncertainty about sales tax and utility tax revenue.

Revenue from taxes on utilities such as natural gas fluctuate due to weather and price swings for the commodity and are a one major piece of city revenue. It has cut its general fund spending by about $1 million for the coming year. Arbo said if revenues don’t increase, the city is looking at shaving another $600,000 in 2014-15.

“The city’s financial condition is still under watch,” Arbo said. “It is advisable we continue to find ways to reduce our expenditures.”

The city uses a computer model to make an ongoing project of its budget trends for the next five years, so it can make measured adjustments, he said.

Councilmember Ed Cockrell asked why not make more cuts this year. Arbo said he hopes revenue may pick up if the economy improves.

Another $600,000 cut now would force a significant change in service levels or a “change in our relationship with employees,” Arbo said.

Regardless of cuts in some areas, the city has new programs to improve service including:

• Implementing new technology for “predictive policing” where a police analyst uses a computer software and crime data to attempt to predict where crimes will be occurring. Officers also will begin using an “e-ticketing” a system which allows a police officer to carry a small electronic device to scan driver’s licenses and prepare citations, and the information is downloaded into directly from the device into the police records system to eliminate redundant data entry

• Increasing its deductible for liability insurance to $50,000 per claim for a significant reduction in premiums. It also created a $150,000 “pool” for deductible payments, which will enable it to also handle more claims in house instead of referring them to the insurance company.

• Developing a land use plan for the 900 acres south and east of U.S. 50 and Todd George Parkway

• Buying a wing plow for clearing streets of snow, to determine if that equipment is better than plows now in use

• Funding for several large capital projects, either construction or design: Lee’s Summit Road between Colbern and Gregory ($13 million), Jefferson Street from Scherer to Stuart ($8 million), and the Orchard and Pryor Road improvements ($2.2 million), Water Operations Facility ($12 million), Cultural Arts Facilities ($775,000), earthwork for extending a runway at Lee’s Summit Municipal Airport ($4.1 million).

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