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

photo by: Mike Yoder

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured Thursday, July 7, 2016.

City leaders have approved a budget amendment that includes the addition of more than 20 positions to city staff and more than $2 million in additional payroll.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission voted unanimously to approve the second quarter budget amendment for 2021, which among other additions includes 20.5 new staff positions. Commissioners said they supported the amendment and understood that this year’s was more significant than usual.

“I go back to the idea that the 2021 budget we originally passed was a placeholder budget, and we knew that these things were going to happen,” Commissioner Stuart Boley said. “I’m encouraged about the prospects for the 2022 budget, that we’ll be doing more robust budgeting in that process.”

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. The commission had previously indicated support for some of the additional expenses and positions, which are made up of 9.5 administrative positions, four planning positions, and seven positions in the Municipal Services & Operations Department.

Because the positions will only be in place for a portion of the year, the costs for 2021 will be less than the annual costs going forward. For 2021, the city’s latest estimate anticipates the 13.5 administrative and planning positions will cost about $1.36 million and the seven MSO positions will cost $334,000, or about $1.69 million total, according to information that Budget & Strategic Initiatives Administrator Danielle Buschkoetter provided to the Journal-World.

Buschkoetter said the impacts for 2022, as well as future years, would vary based on actual salaries and are still subject to any compensation adjustments that will be included in the 2022 budget citywide, but that the city estimates that the 13.5 administrative and planning positions will cost $1.59 million and the seven MSO positions will cost $663,000, or about $2.25 million total.

Six of the MSO positions 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 seventh position, a remediation manager for the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant, will be funded from the Farmland Remediation Trust.

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 Judicial and Law Enforcement Center in downtown Lawrence, and about $1 million in back overtime paid to some city staff due to misclassifications of their positions, among other changes, according to a city staff memo to the commission.

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.

In other business, the commission approved an $857,189 supplement to the city’s engineering services agreement with Dake Wells Architecture for the Field Operations Campus. The city proposed the $29 million headquarters to consolidate field operations last year, and the commission previously approved an engineering services agreement in the amount of $577,480 with Dake Wells Architecture for preliminary design services for the project as well as an additional $39,536 for chemical analysis of soil samples. The supplement approved Tuesday includes planning and “entitlement” submissions, which include the required rezoning, institutional development plan, special use permit and other planning department submittals, as well as schematic design of the project and other services, according to a city staff memo to the commission. The first step will be the planning and entitlement submissions, at a maximum fee of $58,010, and the memo states that the next step of schematic design would not begin until that work was completed and approved. Those approvals must go through the Planning Commission and the City Commission.


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