Lawrence City Commission to consider budget amendment that includes addition of more than 20 staff positions

City leaders will consider a budget amendment that includes the addition of more than 20 positions to city staff.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider the second quarter budget amendment for 2021, which, among other additions, includes 20.5 new staff positions. The commission has previously indicated support for the additional positions, which are made up of 9.5 administrative positions, four planning positions, and seven positions in the Municipal Services & Operations Department.

Due in part to financial uncertainty associated with the coronavirus pandemic, the commission approved a “placeholder” budget for 2021 with the expectation of making quarterly budget adjustments throughout the year.

As the Journal-World reported, city leaders indicated support last month for adding 13.5 positions that city staff initially requested after the city finished 2020 with millions of dollars more in reserves than expected. Leaders said that outcome put the city on firm financial footing to add what they said were badly needed positions. Those positions and other additions proposed along with them amount to $1.59 million in budget amendments for 2021.

Then last week, city staff proposed adding the seven MSO positions, which include six engineers and inspectors and one environmental remediation manager for the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant. Commissioners voted unanimously to direct staff to include those positions in the budget amendment, citing a need to keep up with infrastructure projects and the city’s legal obligation to remediate environmental contaminants on the Farmland site.

The six more traditional MSO positions would cost the city $279,000 in 2021, as they would not be in place for all of the year, and $558,000 in 2022. Those costs will be reimbursed from bond proceeds, and because the total cost for a full year is less than 2% of the bond authorizations, staff estimates that the costs could be covered by money set aside for contingency in the city’s Capital Improvement Plan budget.

The remediation manager position would be funded from the Farmland Remediation Trust and would cost about $55,000 for 2021, depending on when the position is filled, and $105,000 for each year after that.

Other budget additions include $290,000 for the city’s emergency winter shelter program, $93,000 for contractual services related to the upkeep of the Law Enforcement Center, and the anticipated $9 million the city expects to receive this year from the American Rescue Plan, among other changes, according to a city staff memo to the commission. The memo states for 2021, the costs associated with the budget amendment will be offset by unanticipated revenues, the spending down of prior year fund balance, and/or savings found throughout the year.

The City Commission will convene virtually for its regular meeting at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday with limited staff in place at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St. The city has asked that residents participate in the meeting virtually if they are able to do so. A link to register for the Zoom meeting and directions to submit written public comment are included in the agenda that is available on the city’s website,


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