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Here’s how Kansas City plans to spend its nearly $2 billion budget this coming year

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The $1.9 billion budget is up 9% from last year’s $1.74 billion budget.

The Kansas City Police Department makes up the largest share of the city's revenue. The budget must be approved by City Council on March 24.

Kansas City will have nearly $2 billion in the upcoming fiscal year to fund numerous agencies and departments and improve city services for its more than 500,000 residents, according to the city budget unveiled Thursday.

Most of that money will go to support public safety, transportation and infrastructure, housing and neighborhoods. The budget also includes pay raises for city employees.

Public safety, which includes the Kansas City Police Department and the Kansas City Fire Department, eats up the largest chunk of the city’s operating budget, taking up 72% of the city’s governmental activities fund.

The $1.9 billion budget is up 9% from last year’s $1.74 billion budget and does not include any citywide budget reductions. The optimistic projection comes as the city’s revenue recovers from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years.

The city’s budget pool received a boost from the Biden administration's American Rescue Plan, which allocated millions of dollars to states and municipalities across the country. Kansas City received $194.8 million, which was split into two rounds.

Last year, the city got $97,388,188 from the federal government and used much of it to make up for lost revenues, fund public health and help residents recover from the economic effects of the pandemic. The city will receive the remaining funds — about $97.4 million — this May.

Kansas City’s budget department provided the first look at the proposed budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year at Thursday’s business session meeting. A series of public hearings and discussions on the budget will follow in the coming weeks. The city council must approve and finalize the budget by March 24.

Policing

 

The police department makes up most of the city’s general fund budget by far — nearly 38%, or $269 million. That’s an $8 million increase over last year.

Missouri law requires Kansas City to allocate 20% of its general revenue to the police department. The proposed $269 million budget meets that threshold and includes an additional $37.4 million, which Mayor Quinton Lucas said in his State of the City speech would be directed toward a Community Policing and Prevention Fund.

The additional $37.4 million would be used to:

  • Hire about 150 new police officers 
  • Fund pay increases for officers and staff employees
  • Provide $12.4 million to the Violent Crimes Division 
  • Provide $6.6 million to the communications unit and raise pay for staffers who take 911 calls 
  • Provide more funding for community policing, including community officers and other outreach officers

The proposed KCPD budget comes after a tumultuous battle last year in which Mayor Quinton Lucas and the council attempted to reallocate about $42 million from the KCPD’s budget and direct it toward community policing services. The council also agreed to provide $3 million at the time for a new academy class for officers. Those actions led to a lawsuit by the Board of Police Commissioners alleging the council was “defunding” the police.

In October, a Jackson County judge ruled that the city acted illegally and that state law gave the Board of Police Commissioners exclusive management and control of the KCPD. The court also found that the city could not interfere with the department’s budget once it had been approved.

The focus on funding community policing and prevention in the new budget reflects the mayor’s and council’s determination to exercise some control over the state-controlled police department and avoid further litigation.

The proposed budget was submitted as Missouri Republicans seek to pass a bill requiring Kansas City to increase its minimum funding threshold of the police to 25% of general revenues. Lucas opposes the bill, arguing it would provide a blank check to the department. Northland Councilwoman Heather Hall, who was opposed to last spring’s reallocation attempts, supports it.

In testimony on the bill in January, Hall urged lawmakers to pass the bill quickly so it could take effect before the council approves the new budget.

This year will also be the last time KCPD Chief Rick Smith oversees approval of the police budget before he steps down in April.

Housing and neighborhoods

Under the category of Neighborhoods and Healthy Communities, which includes the housing, neighborhoods, parks and recreation, and health departments, the budget allocates $225.1, a 7% increase over the previous year.

The budget reflects major departmental changes that took place in the past year, namely the decision to split what used to be the Neighborhoods and Housing Services Department into the Housing and Community Development Department and the Neighborhoods and Community Services Department.

The combined budgets of neighborhoods and housing services makes up just 4.8% of the city’s general fund.

The standalone neighborhoods department will focus on neighborhood preservation issues. The budget includes $2 million to address dangerous buildings across the city.

The housing department will focus on affordable housing and homelessness prevention. The city recently announced that Jane Brown, who was the mayor’s general counsel, will lead the department.

The budget includes funding for the city’s first-ever Houselessness Prevention Coordinator and $12.5 million to allocate to the city’s Housing Trust Fund, which was established last year to create and preserve affordable housing.

The housing department will also receive $2.5 million to fund the city’s newly created Tenants’ Right to Counsel program, which the council approved in December. The program will be up and running by June, providing tenants facing eviction, regardless of their income, access to a lawyer.

Important dates

Kansas City residents will have three opportunities to provide feedback on the submitted city budget in public hearings.

The dates are:

  • Feb. 19 — Virtual public hearing
  • Feb. 23 — City Hall hearing and virtual public hearing
  • March 5 — Virtual public hearing
As KCUR’s Missouri politics and government reporter, it’s my job to show how government touches every aspect of our lives.
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