(WICHITA, Kan.) — Wichita's City Manager presents his proposed 2011-2012 budget to the Wichita City Council. The manager needed to makes $8 million in cuts because of declining revenue. The proposed budget does not include a property tax increase for the 17th consecutive year.
After the presentation, council members praised Layton for his hard work. Council member Paul Gray says Layton is the most open and transparent city manager city hall has ever had. Gray says it's especially impressive that during tough budget times, Layton is willing to engage the public for ideas.
Mayor Carl Brewer says he's amazed and impressed at how Layton is handling the budget, especially given the tough decisions of getting rid of positions.
The budget includes more money for streets, furloughs and merging departments. The 2011-2012 budget is almost $520 million, with $213 million going into the general fund. The city faces an $8 million deficit in the general fund because of lagging property tax revenues.
To balance the budget, City Manager Bob Layton says he focused more on changes internally at City Hall. He proposes eliminating 65 positions at city hall along with furloughs in the planning department and central inspection office. Those changes will save $6.4 million. 95 department directors and other managers will also be required to take four days of furlough next year, saving another $169,000.
There are some proposed changes for the police department but Layton says it will not impact the public. Ten administrative positions, including four school resource officers are going to be eliminated. The SRO positions were a decision by the school district and the city plans to put those officer's back on the street.
The budget includes funding increases in only a couple of areas. Layton wants to spend more to improve city streets. This year and next, another $600,000 will be added to street maintenance to focus on improving residential streets. The manager says street maintenance is as important to citizens as public safety.
The manger also wants to spend another $2.5 million this year and next on economic development. He says that fund is usually paid through application fees, but since that activity is down the fund needs a shot in the arm. He says the money will cover the city's $900,000 portion of affordable airfares and other incentives to lure new businesses.
More street maintenance won't be the only change for public works. Layton proposes merging public works department and water utility department. That will eliminate five positions and save $443,000 next year. When the city discovered financial planning flaws in the water department earlier this year and the water utility director retired, Public Works Director Chris Carrier was appointed to the position. He'll continue overseeing both sides when the department merges.
Changes could eventually come to city recreational center's. Layton says they're looking at partnerships with the school district and other entities like the YMCA. He says instead of each offering duplicate services, they want to streamline and work together. He says he can see turning rec center's into resource center's that focus more on education. None of those changes would happen until early next year. The process is still in the beginning stages.
The city manager will present the budget to the city council Tuesday. The council will hold public hearings July 20, August 3 and August 10. Council members are expected to vote on the budget August 10.