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City manager’s budget deals with Kansas City’s mounting pension costs

Updated: 2014-01-16T04:26:38Z


The Kansas City Star

They’re calling it “The Year of the Pension.”

That’s how Kansas City financial analysts describe the budget City Manager Troy Schulte submitted Wednesday evening to Mayor Sly James and the City Council.

“It’s a very tough budget,” Schulte said after the 2014-15 budget proposal was released. “We’re funding our pension obligations.”

The budget was released late Wednesday to comply with a city charter deadline requirement. James declined to comment on the document, saying he had just received it.

The City Council will hold public hearings on the proposal in February and March, and the council will adopt a final budget March 27. It takes effect May 1.

The proposal would increase pension and retiree health care funding for all city employees from $63 million in this budget year to $78 million next year. City officials had pledged to do that to start to deal with chronically underfunded pension systems and to meet agreements with police, fire and blue-collar worker labor groups.

To help pay for those increases, Schulte said, the city is counting on some revenue increases in earnings and sales taxes. But the budget also calls for eliminating 100 positions, including 30 filled positions (mostly middle management and administrative) and other cuts to various departments.

“You continue to squeeze the organization,” Schulte said, noting that these layoffs would come on top of more than 250 layoffs in the past four years, along with the elimination of hundreds of vacant positions.

The rest of the general fund budget for basic services remains fairly static, and Schulte acknowledged many things remain unfunded, including a $50 million vehicle replacement backlog, excluding the Police Department, and a $50 million building maintenance backlog.

The budget predicts municipal court revenues will be down by $4 million, in part because the red-light camera ticket program is in legal limbo and is not being enforced and partly because other traffic tickets also have plummeted to their lowest level in decades.

For that reason, Schulte said, he is recommending eliminating funding for one municipal court division, which would save $300,000.

The total budget is projected to be $1.4 billion, up $37 million, or 2.7 percent. But the general activities budget is actually projected to be down slightly, to $916 million. The increase comes in aviation and water services, through rate increases reached with the airlines and with continued double-digit increases in water and sewer rates.

Other highlights:

• A continuation of the $2.1 million in annual funding for the acquisition and resale of vacant and neglected properties, including lot cleanup and mowing, and $1.7 million for dangerous-building demolitions.

• Continuation of $400,000 for summer youth enrichment and about $350,000 for weekend youth activities, including Club KC and the Mayor’s Night Hoops.

• $50,000 in new funding for a film commission, which would also receive funding from the Convention & Visitors Association.

• $200,000 in new funding for two city positions and $75,000 in additional funding to promote the arts.

• $150,000 in continued funding to promote international events.

• $84,000 to fund BikeKC, which promotes bike and pedestrian transportation.

To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-226-2058 or send email to

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