City leaders to consider process to reduce number of advisory boards, improve their functionality

photo by: Mike Yoder

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

Lawrence city leaders will soon consider setting up a committee to study potential changes to the city’s many advisory boards and commissions, including a recommendation to significantly reduce their overall number.

The city has 45 boards, commissions, steering committees, governing boards or other related bodies, according to the city’s website. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider adopting a resolution to establish a committee to study and make recommendations regarding the structure for all boards and commissions and a reduction in their overall number.

The commission has previously discussed reducing the number of boards, and earlier this year expressed interest in considering ways to better align the city’s volunteer boards and commissions with the strategic plan the commission adopted in 2021. The plan includes five goal areas centered on arts and culture, strong and welcoming neighborhoods, safety and security, prosperity and economic security, and infrastructure and facilities.

City Manager Craig Owens provided some data about city boards and commissions and recommended several next steps as part of the commission’s meeting on Nov. 1. In a memo to the commission, Owens stated that in 2020 he asked the city clerk to conduct an estimate of the cost to provide support to all of the boards and commissions, including the City Commission itself. He said the conservative estimate at that time was $470,000 per year. He noted only eight of the city’s 45 boards and commissions are required and structured by state law, and that a 2021 study by University of Kansas researchers of local government boards and commissions in Kansas reports that for cities of 20,000 people or more the average number of boards and commissions is 16.

Based on the commission’s goals to improve the boards and align them with the strategic plan, Owens made the following nine recommendations regarding the committee and its work:

1. Establish by resolution a committee to develop options and/or a recommended structure for all boards and commissions.

2. The resolution should appoint a committee of five existing board or commission chairs, the city manager, city clerk, and city attorney.

3. A four-month timeframe to develop and deliver recommendations to the City Commission.

4. The committee should meet in compliance with the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA) and provide an opportunity for one public hearing during the course of the development and before a recommendation is made to the City Commission.

5. The committee should limit the number of boards (not inclusive of component unit, joint city/county, and boards with appointees) to no more than 10 (currently 22).

6. The recommendations must maintain compliance with all statutory requirements.

7. The recommendations should outline a process of transition from the current boards and commissions to the new configuration.

8. The recommendations should include a code of conduct for all board and commission members.

9. The recommendations should include a procedure for how recommendations are made, how agendas are prepared, authority, responsibility for orientation, role, authority, duties, and responsibilities of staff.

The memo states there would be no direct fiscal impact to establishing the committee, but it was anticipated that 80 to 100 hours of staff time would be needed over the next four months in addition to volunteer time. As part of its meeting, the commission will consider adopting a resolution to establish the committee and incorporate Owens’ recommendations.

The Lawrence City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.


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