The Lawrence City Commission is looking to eliminate some of the more than 40 committees and advisory boards that fall under its purview.
At their work session Tuesday, commissioners will discuss a recommendation from city staff to consolidate five boards and eliminate a handful of others. The task was one the commission identified as a priority during strategic planning earlier this year.
“It was trying to streamline the overall number and trying to gain efficiencies, both in terms of the way the boards are functioning but also the staff involved in the boards,” said Assistant City Manager Diane Stoddard.
Currently, there are 44 local boards or commissions that the City Commission oversees or interacts with. Those include boards required by law, such as the planning commission and board of zoning appeals, but also boards created to provide policy recommendations on a range of specific issues.
“There’s really quite a gamut of different functions among the boards depending on what they were created for,” Stoddard said.
For one, city staff is recommending that the six construction code appeals boards — for building, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, fire, and contractor licensing — be combined into a single board, according to a memo to the City Commission.
It’s also recommended that the commission consolidate the following boards: the Joint Economic Development Council and Public Incentive Review Committee; the Lawrence Alliance and Human Relations Commission; the Social Service Funding Advisory Board and Transient Guest Tax Program Advisory Board; and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission.
Stoddard said those boards have overlaps.
“What we were looking for is some boards or committees that seem to have functions or areas of their focus that seem to be related or somehow complement one another,” Stoddard said.
City staff is recommending the commission eliminate four boards: Sister Cities Advisory Board, Community Development Advisory Committee, Homeless Issues Advisory Committee and Sales Tax Audit Committee, according to the memo. Stoddard pointed out that if, in the future, the commission wanted to address issues in the realm of those boards, it could create a temporary task force.
Summaries of the recommended eliminations are below:
• The Sales Tax Audit Committee ensures that the expenditures related to the 10-year additional citywide sales taxes (2008-2018) are spent on what was authorized by voters. The committee receives reports from city staff and makes recommendations to the commission. City staff recommends the committee stay in place through the sales tax period but that if voters renew the sales tax for another 10 years that the reports can be shared directly with the City Commission.
• The Homeless Issues Advisory Committee receives quarterly reports from agencies involved in serving the homeless. The committee is being recommended for elimination because it does not have a regular function identified in city code and has not recently passed along recommendations to the City Commission.
• The Sister Cities Advisory Board advises the commission and assists the student exchange program with Eutin, Germany; Hiratsuka, Japan; and Iniades, Greece. The Sister Cities program maintains its own nonprofit organization, and city staff believes the program could function more efficiently if a city staff liaison were assigned to attend meetings instead of maintaining a city board.
• The Community Development Advisory Committee makes recommendations to the City Commission relating to the expenditure of federal Community Development Block Grant and HOME funds. The committee is being recommended for elimination because the amount of those funds have “significantly dwindled” in past years and many cities have staff make spending recommendations with a hearing before the City Commission.
Staff is also recommending that city code be updated to reflect that three boards are obsolete. Those boards are the Lawrence Advisory Board on University Student Issues, Downtown Parking Advisory Board and the ECO2 Commission. The boards are no longer functioning and do not have appointees.
The commission will not make any decisions as part of its work session Tuesday, but will discuss the recommendations and provide direction to city staff. Stoddard said any changes to advisory boards or committees would be a part of the commission’s regular agenda at future meetings.
The City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.