City budget study session
• Day One
The Lawrence Public Library may have to reduce some evening hours if city commissioners follow through on a scenario that reduces each department’s budget by 5 percent for 2010.
City Hall’s phone and voicemail system is so badly outdated that only used parts can be bought for the 16-year-old network.
Parks and Recreation leaders warn that they are getting closer to turning away participants if the city doesn’t come up with a plan for securing more gym and ballfield space.
Day Two of the City Commission’s work to create a budget for 2010 brought out a parade of red flags, but commissioners expressed confidence that they would be able to put together a budget that wouldn’t produce large-scale pain for the public.
“I don’t think there’s going to be very much in the way of service cuts, if any,” said newly elected Commissioner Aron Cromwell. “I think we’ve realized that a couple of percents can be trimmed from almost all the budgets, just in matters of efficiency.”
Commissioners didn’t make any decisions at Thursday afternoon’s study session. They have until late August to create a budget. Instead, they directed staff members to closely examine each departmental budget and begin adjusting individual line items closer to 2008 levels.
“We’re going to win this battle $10,000 at a time,” Mayor Rob Chestnut said. “I want to make sure we’re not just sticking numbers in there to have space holders.”
Among the issues commissioners heard on Thursday:
l Library director Bruce Flanders said a 5 percent cut to the library’s budget likely would require the library to close a few hours early on at least one weeknight. He said a Thursday or Friday evening was the most likely scenario.
l Jim Wisdom, the city’s interim director of information systems, warned commissioners the city’s phone and voicemail system at City Hall is about four years past its life expectancy.
“This is something that is eventually going to fail,” Wisdom said.
Cost estimates for a new phone and voicemail system are about $690,000.
l Acting Parks and Recreation Director Ernie Shaw said a 5 percent reduction in the budget would make it difficult for the department to pay electric and gas bill costs for the department’s various facilities. The department’s proposed budget envisions tapping into sales tax reserve funds to maintain facilities, and calls for the elimination of one part-time administrative support position.
Shaw said the budget crunch comes at a time when more people are using parks and recreation programs because they are looking for cheap entertainment options.
Shaw urged commissioners to take a long-term view of the facility needs for the department, noting that the city in the last couple of years has lost the use of Robinson Gymnasium at Kansas University, a softball field at Lawrence High, and several gyms at the former Sport 2 Sport facility.
“We’re getting back to being facility poor again,” Shaw said. “We’re already using everything we can get from the school district, churches, and we’re renting some large spaces from businesses in town.”
Commissioners are expected to discuss the budget again as part of their annual goal-setting session. That study session will be from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. May 26 at City Hall.