It is not only the season for George Brett tattoos and Royal-blue face paint. (I assume we’re all doing that to celebrate Brett’s recent return the Royals’ bench. Aren’t we???)
Oh well, it is also budget season at Lawrence City Hall. And that means city commissioners have a long list of monetary requests from city departments and outside agencies to consider. That process gets started in earnest at a 3:30 p.m. study session Tuesday at City Hall.
Here’s a look at some of the requests:
• The Lawrence Public Library is requesting an extra $173,000 in its budget — about a 5 percent increase — to fund operations at the new and expanded library facility. But the extra money won’t be going to buy more books or other items to fill the shelves. The biggest factors in the request are a 12 percent increase in health insurance premiums and a state-mandated increase in contributions to the KPERS pension program for employees. The library’s $3.4 million budget also doesn’t include many new employees to run the library, which will about double in size. The library is creating two new positions — a book stack manager and a technology position — but those positions will be added through a staff reorganization rather than a staff expansion. As for books and other reading materials, the library’s budget holds those expenses steady at $540,000. It is worth noting, however, that the library isn’t expected to move into its new facility until the spring or summer of 2014, so its 2015 budget may be a better indicator of how much it will cost to run the larger library.
• The Lawrence Community Shelter also is learning how to operate in a larger facility. The homeless shelter is seeking $100,000 in general tax funds to operate the shelter. That’s an increase of $8,000 over 2013 totals. The shelter also is set to receive $44,000 in liquor tax funds from the city. That’s the same amount it received in 2014.
• Douglas County officials are asking the city to provide about $135,000 to add four dispatchers to the jointly operated Emergency Communications Center, which handles all 911 calls in the county. It will be interesting to watch this one. The city and county have clashed in past years on some of these jointly funded ventures. Past administrations have negotiated the cost-sharing agreements, and city officials recently have expressed dissatisfaction with some of them. In this case, the city pays 66 percent of the operating costs of the center, while the county pays 34 percent. Other cities in the county, such as a Baldwin and Eudora, don’t directly pay for any of the costs, although their police departments also use the dispatching service. The bigger issue, though, is that city officials feel like city residents are getting taxed twice for the service because Lawrence residents also pay county taxes. County officials have indicated the arrangement is fair because a large majority of calls come from Lawrence residents.
• The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department — another jointly funded agency — is seeking about a $13,000 increase in city funding, about a 2 percent increase. The city pays for about 20 percent of the department’s operating budget, while the county, grants and user fees pay for the rest of the approximately $3.3 million budget. The city, however, may be on the hook for significant costs related to the Community Health Building, which houses the Health Department, Bert Nash and the Visiting Nurses Association. The city and county currently are gathering estimates to increase security at the building. The city would be obligated to pay half of those costs, which haven’t yet been determined.
• On the law enforcement front, a major increase in funding may depend on a grant application. City commissioners are being asked to apply for an $875,000 federal grant that would provide funding for seven school resource officers for the next three years. The city would have to provide about $460,000 in matching funds for the grant. The new school resource officers, which would be in addition to the four school resource officers the city already has in place, would allow each high school and all the middle schools to have a dedicated officer. Currently, high schools and middle schools often share officers. The city would find out whether it has won the competitive grant funding by the beginning of 2014. As we have previously reported, the police department also has several other facility and equipment needs, but those probably merit a separate discussion since they could total $20 million or more. Whether city commissioners have any interest in having that discussion during this budget round will be one of the key things to watch during Tuesday’s study session.
• City Manager David Corliss is recommending the city budget $120,000 to help Johnson County pay for the K-10 Connector transit service that runs between Lawrence and portions of Johnson County. That amount is proposed to grow to $275,000 by 2016. Johnson County officials have said the popular commuter service is at risk of being closed down if Lawrence officials don’t assist in funding the program.
• The city attorney’s office is estimating it will need about $138,000 more to cover the costs of housing prisoners in the Douglas County Jail and also for providing defense services to indigent clients who come through Lawrence Municipal Court.
• Public Works would like to add an additional maintenance worker — at a cost of about $45,000 — to help care for the new parking garage that is being built next to the expanded library.
• The Lawrence Humane Society is seeking a nearly 35 percent increase in city funding for 2014. It is seeking $377,000 in funding to care for the stray animals that the city’s animal control officers bring to the facility.
• The Lawrence Arts Center is asking for more money on multiple fronts. The center, which is housed in a city-owned building, is seeking $51,000 in general city funding to pay for a new custodial position, increase technical staff and increased maintenance. The center also is seeking an additional $25,000 from the city’s liquor tax revenues to provide scholarships to children who can’t afford to pay for classes and programs. The city currently provides $25,000 for scholarships, but center leaders say demand is high. The center provided $100,000 worth of scholarships in the last year. The Arts Center also is seeking about $15,000 for a new phone system, and about $20,000 to upgrade the building’s kitchen, which serves a variety of events.
• Finally, there are a host of social service agencies and other not-for-profits that request funding from the city each year. A city advisory board is recommending that most of the funding amounts to those organizations hold steady for 2014. But that’s not the case in every instance. You can look at the entire list here.