City leaders to consider requiring more top city employees to live in Lawrence
photo by: Nick Krug
City leaders will soon consider whether more high-level city employees should have to live in Lawrence.
At the Lawrence City Commission’s meeting this week, a resident said he was concerned that a number of administrative-level city employees live outside Lawrence, and he asked the city to consider requiring residency for more city positions.
Lawrence resident John Blazek, who is a member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, said that he’d learned via his role on the board and from discussions with other community members of several city administrators who live outside Lawrence. Blazek said he wanted the money that Lawrence residents pay in taxes to support those salaries used to benefit the Lawrence community instead of helping to pay property and sales taxes in other communities.
“That means that salary those people are paid is being taken outside of Lawrence, spent on homes, groceries, cars, gas and taxes in other communities,” Blazek said. He said just a handful of city employees living and paying taxes outside Lawrence could amount to thousands of dollars.
As a secondary concern, Blazek said city employees who don’t live in Lawrence are not as engaged or concerned with the community as those who also live here. He said he didn’t think anyone should lose a job, but he asked that commissioners consider developing a policy requiring city employees in administrative positions to live within the city or at least within the county.
The city has about 750 full-time employees. Currently, only department directors and people in the highest level administrative positions are required to live in Lawrence, according to the city’s existing residency policy. The policy states that the city manager, assistant city managers, police chief, fire chief and all department directors must establish permanent residency in the city within six months of beginning their positions.
A Journal-World search of public records indicated that at least four high-level city employees not subject to the residency requirement and who made more than $100,000 in 2017 live outside of Lawrence, in cities such as Baldwin City, Topeka and Olathe. That number does not include Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical division chiefs, several of whom also live outside Lawrence.
During the commission items portion of the meeting, commissioners all agreed that they would be interested in further discussing the city’s residency requirement. Commissioner Leslie Soden said the topic has come up before, and she wants city staff to provide an update on the commission’s options regarding potential changes to the requirement.
“That’s something I think we’ve batted around back and forth a little bit over the past few years, so I just wanted to have a future update on if there’s anything that we can do about that or not,” Soden said.