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Olathe City Manager Michael Wilkes presented his proposed 2014 budget during the June 18 Olathe City Council Meeting. According to Wilkes, it is driven by Council and resident priorities as well as a responsible approach to preserving taxpayer assets.
"We clearly have limited flexibility with resources, and as such, the proposed budget applies resources to key areas that our taxpayers say are most important and that preserve our taxpayers’ assets," Wilkes said. The proposed general fund operating budget ($79,422,060) would be a 4.77 percent increase from the previous year. The general fund is largely financed by sales and property taxes and includes the majority of city operations.
The budgetary additions are primarily broken down into two categories, public safety and preserving infrastructure. The public safety category includes investments in Police (one detective), Fire (two firefighters), City Prosecutor (.5 Asst. Prosecutor), and Municipal Court (one bailiff). Wilkes said, "Public safety remains a major citizen priority, and we need to make sure we invest citizen tax dollars where it will make the most impact."
The second category focuses on infrastructure. According to Wilkes, this remains another high priority. "The Council has made it clear that they will not shirk their responsibility and avoid difficult decisions today, creating greater challenges for our taxpayers in the future," Wilkes said. "Though this budget may lack bells and whistles, it focuses on preserving the investments our taxpayers have made." During the last two decades, Olathe was one of America’s fastest growing cities adding significant infrastructure (such as roads, sewers, fire stations, etc.) to support the population boom.
The proposed budget includes restoring necessary funding for building maintenance as well as parks and facilities renovation and maintenance. In addition, it increases funding for the city's single biggest challenge, street maintenance. The proposal includes one new employee focusing on maintaining green space and two focused on technical infrastructure.
Wilkes pointed out that 67 percent of the general fund budget goes directly to funding public safety and transportation, and a significant portion of the remainder goes to internal programs supporting it. He said, "We have made significant cuts in areas outside of public safety and transportation. While public safety and transportation continue to receive the majority of our resources, falling behind in the maintenance of our parks, buildings and facilities will cost our taxpayers dearly in the future.”
While the proposed general fund budget adds 7.5 full-time equivalent positions, Olathe’s employee per 1000 resident ratio (4.46) remains well below pre-recession levels (5.20 in 2008).
The proposed budget also includes fee supported funds: water and sewer, solid waste, stormwater, and recreation that are based on usage rather than tax revenue.
The City Council will discuss and deliberate the proposed budget during a series of workshops and hearings, and the public is encouraged to attend. The City has created a number of avenues for residents to provide feedback or share thoughts including through the City’s website, Facebook page, or phone (913) 971-8671.
A complete copy of the proposed budget is available on the City’s website, OlatheKS.org/Budget. The next event designed for citizen feedback is the e-Town Hall meeting scheduled for Tuesday, July, 2, and comments are welcome anytime through the website or by contacting Council Members directly.