Lawrence City Commission to discuss upcoming advisory board review of Parks and Rec budget

photo by: Nick Krug

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on May 3, 2016.

City leaders will soon discuss the specifics of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board’s review of the department’s finances, including what role fees will play in the future.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will receive a request from the board to provide clarification regarding the recommendation being sought from the board regarding the 2021 budget process.

The commission tasked the board with providing it a recommendation following the public announcement of former City Manager Tom Markus’ 2020 budget plan, which called for initiating entrance fees at the city’s recreation centers. The board said it needed more time to study the issues and provide a comprehensive recommendation, but said it had serious concerns about how the proposal would affect low-income residents. Ultimately, the commission made budget cuts elsewhere and made other one-time transfers to keep the status quo in the department for another year and give the commission and the board more time to study the issue.

Following the board’s meeting on Sept. 9, board members wrote a letter to the commission seeking direction on the questions the commission would like the board to study in relation to the department’s budget for 2021 and beyond. The letter states there was some confusion as to the extensiveness of its review, and whether it was to review finances of the entire department or focus specifically on the recreation division.

Markus’ recommended budget for 2020 proposed no increase in the amount of money the recreation fund received from the city’s general fund. Instead, his budget proposed significant changes to make the recreation division’s budget balanced, including charging entrance fees at recreation centers citywide, increasing other recreation fees, and closing the Community Building for drop-in use, among other proposals.

The discussion requested by the board is the only item on the commission’s regular agenda apart from an executive session. The commission will recess into executive session to discuss pending litigation and privileged legal communications from the city’s attorneys regarding employment law, according to a city staff memo to the commission. The memo states that the justification of the executive session, which is estimated to take approximately 45 minutes, is to keep matters of attorney-client privilege confidential at this time.

In other business, the commission will consider approving a new comprehensive plan for Lawrence and the unincorporated areas of Douglas County. Plan 2040 has a new growth policy that prioritizes infill development and adds requirements for developers who want to expand the city’s boundaries. At its meeting Sept. 3, the commission deferred action on the plan.

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


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