The Kansas City Council approved a new budget Thursday that for the first time in years fully funds the city’s pension obligations — but requires cuts and layoffs to do so.
“It was another tough budget, but with the pension reform that we put in, that’s a big step forward long term,” said City Manager Troy Schulte.
City Councilwoman Jan Marcason, the finance committee chairwoman, agreed it was a “milestone” for the city to achieve pension reform without the labor strife that so many other cities have encountered.
That doesn’t mean it was an easy fix financially for the city.
The 2014-15 budget, which takes effect May 1, boosts total pension and retiree health care payments for city employees from $63 million in this budget year to $78 million next year. The additional funding honors the city’s pledge to begin dealing with chronic underfunding of the four pension systems and to meet agreements with police, fire and blue-collar worker labor groups.
To help pay those increases, the city is refinancing its debt on the Power & Light entertainment district, which lowers those debt payments for the next few years but spreads the downtown debt out from 2033 to 2040. Some of the pension funding also will come from projected revenue increases and some from department budget cuts and eliminating about 100 positions, including more than 30 filled positions.
The total budget is projected to be $1.4 billion, up $37 million, or 2.7 percent, but the increase relates to aviation and water services. The general activities budget for basic services is actually projected to decline slightly to $916 million.
• Water rates will increase 10 percent and sewer rates 15 percent. The average monthly residential water bill is expected to increase by $11.16 after May 1 to an average monthly bill of about $84. Water rate increases are supposed to taper off after next year, although double-digit sewer rate increases are projected for seven more years to pay for federally mandated sewer repairs and upgrades.
• Continuation of the $400,000 in funds for Club KC’s weekend summer night activities and $350,000 for other summer youth enrichment such as Mayor’s Night Hoops and Night Kicks.
• $50,000 in new city funding for a film commission, with matching funds from the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association.
• $200,000 for two new city positions to promote the arts in Kansas City.
• $150,000 for a position to promote international events.
• $84,000 to fund bicycle and pedestrian transportation planning and $75,000 to help sustain the B-cycle bike rental program.