Kansas City’s police and fire departments claim the biggest share of new spending in the proposed operating budget submitted last week by City Manager Troy Schulte.
Forecasts of robust growth in sales and utility tax revenues support the proposed $1.6 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins May 1. That represents a 4.1 percent increase in city government spending.
The financial blueprint, which now goes to the City Council, would hike public safety spending by $14.3 million. Public safety — police, fire and municipal court — accounts for 42 percent of all governmental activities, but 76 percent of the city’s general operating fund.
The increases reflect priorities set in the city’s five-year business plan.
“We remain committed to public safety while finding innovative and creative ways to maintain basic city services,” Schulte and Mayor Sly James said Thursday in a letter to the council.
Schulte and James proposed a $5.6 million boost to police spending, although Police Chief Rick Smith did not get everything he asked for. The new money will pay for 15 additional patrol officers, out of 30 requested, and eight dispatchers, out of 21 requested. Aided by a grant from the Hall Family Foundation, the city will place social workers in each patrol division in an attempt to address the root causes of violent crime.
Officers and civilian employees also would receive wage and benefit increases as established by collective bargaining agreements.
Fire service spending would grow by $8.2 million overall, nearly all of it consumed by wages and benefits. That includes a $3.7 million increase in overtime pay, a traditional driver of rising costs, and $2.3 million in additional pension fund contributions.
Pension and health care costs across all of city government have grown by $55 million over the past ten years, according to budget officer Scott Huizenga.
Nearly all city departments would receive increases, with the exception of Municipal Court, where the budget would stay flat because of a steep drop in revenue from citations.
The council also will review the proposed $187 million capital improvements budget. It includes an additional $59 million in revenue from the $800 million general obligation bond package for infrastructure improvements that voters approved last year.
While coffers are healthier than they were during the trough of the recession in 2008-2009, the city’s rainy day fund is not where officials, or Wall Street, would like it to be. The new budget would boost cash reserves to 12.8 percent of operating funds from 11.2 percent, but still short of the 17 percent goal.
That would represent about two months of operating expenses, or $88 million.
The city will hold a series of community hearings on the budget before the council takes final action on March 22.