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Proposed Kansas City, Missouri, Budget Does Not Include Full Funding For Free Buses

Frank Morris
KCUR 89.3
Kansas City, Missouri's, proposed budget is short of the money requested to eliminate bus fares in Kansas City.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas is set to release his proposed budget Thursday, and it’s roughly $3 million short of what transportation officials say they need to get rid of bus fares.

Kansas City, Missouri, got national attention last year when the city council pledged to find the money to go fare-free. Officials at the time estimated that it would cost $8 million to pull off.

But Lucas’ proposed budget, set to be formally taken up by the city council for the first time Thursday, includes just $4.8 million for the zero-fare initiative, his office confirmed to KCUR. 

A corporate sponsor, to be announced at Wednesday’s State of the City Address, is expected to contribute $1 million a year for five years, bringing the total to $5.8 million.

The remaining $2.2 million needed for the proposal, the mayor’s office says, will be made up by the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority. 

The KCATA did not immediately return requests for comment.

A spokesperson from the mayor's office noted that although Lucas committed to eliminating bus fares, he never promised all $8 million would come from the city's general fund. 

Lucas' budget isn’t final. The city council will debate it in the coming weeks and three public meetings are scheduled across the city to gather residents' input. 

The budget is also expected to include increases to the fire department and for police for additional officers.

In December, KCATA president Robbie Makinen estimated about 20% of bus riders across the metro area already ride for free. That includes veterans and high school students in three Kansas City districts.

But even though the council voted unanimously to get rid of bus fares, there were some skeptics.

Kansas City Councilwoman Katheryn Shields wondered where the money would come from.

“Because I know there's not $3 million, $5 million or $8 million sitting around,” Shields told KCUR.

Lisa Rodriguez is the afternoon newscaster and the city hall reporter for KCUR 89.3 Follow her on Twitter @larodrig.

Slow news days are a thing of the past. As KCUR’s news director, I want to cut through the noise, provide context to the headlines, and give you news you can use in your daily life – information that will empower you to make informed decisions about your neighborhood, your city and the region. Email me at lisa@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @larodrig.
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