We read all 572 pages of Kansas City’s $2 billion budget so you don’t have to
The budget for the upcoming year will determine the amount of money each city department receives, from the police department to housing services.
Kansas City’s $1.9 billion budget will guide funding for city services ranging from the police department to trash pickup to addressing blighted buildings.
The budget is bouncing back following revenue shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. With more money than last year’s $1.74 billion budget — in part thanks to federal COVID relief funding from the American Rescue Plan — city departments will not have to withstand any cuts.
“Because of the American Rescue Plan, we were allowed to tell our departments, after two years of cuts, a zero target budget, which was great news, considering they've had two years of an 11% reduction,” said Krista Morrison, budget officer in the city’s Office of Management and Budget.
By law, the city council must approve the budget at its third meeting in March, meaning the 2022-2023 budget must be approved on March 24.
KCUR broke down the budget process and read through the 572-page document so residents can better understand how the city plans to spend its revenue in the upcoming year.
How the budget comes together
The submitted 2022-2023 budget was first presented to the council on Feb. 17. But the city’s Office of Management and Budget began the budget process much earlier, in July.
“What are our fixed costs, like fuel, going to look like for the year?” Morrison said. “A lot of our basics, like utility prices, we start just building the very, very basic structure of the budget.”
Morrison said the office then asks each city department in the fall to submit their own budget based on the city’s fiscal health.
She said the city’s five-year plan also guides the creation of the budget each year.
How is the budget funded?
The city’s $1.9 billion in revenue is split into six different funds that fall into two categories: governmental activities and business activities. The three largest funds are the city’s general fund, special revenue fund, and water and sewer fund. Morrison said there are restrictions in how some of these funds can be spent.
Business activities encompass funds that are specific to water, sewer and aviation. Those amount to about $647 million of the budget.
Special revenues encompass 50 specific, restrictive funds and amount to about $522 million. Morrison said some of these funds are guided by legislative language and cannot be used for other purposes. Some examples include the city’s Housing Trust Fund, neighborhood grants, funds from the American Rescue Plan and the public safety sales tax.
“Like 66% of Kansas City's budget is very restricted by what is either a legislating authority or the ballot language,” Morrison said.
Finally, there’s the city’s general fund, which amounts to $537 million and makes up 28% of the city budget. General fund revenues include money collected from property taxes, sales taxes, earnings taxes and more. The city has more flexibility in how these funds, which are used to fund a majority of city services and departments, can be allocated.
Most city departments are funded through a combination of general fund revenues and money from special revenue funds. The Parks Department, for instance, receives a majority of its funds through the park sales tax, which counts as special revenue, and other money from the city’s general fund.
Breaking down the general fund
Basic city services — from trash cleanup to the police — are funded through the city’s general fund.
“The bulk of this fund is supporting public safety,” Morrison said. “It's supporting neighborhoods, housing and healthy communities, like trash. So that money, while it has more flexibility, it's really locked down in basic city services.”
Under the submitted budget, the Kansas City Police Department receives about $230 million — the biggest budget of any city department. Missouri law requires Kansas City to allocate 20% of its general fund to the KCPD. In the upcoming budget, the city funds the department using 43% of its general fund.
What have residents shared so far?
The city has held two public budget hearings so far in which residents have shared their thoughts on the budget. At the city’s only in-person hearing on Feb. 23 at City Hall, several residents raised concerns about the lack of affordable housing, preserving neighborhoods east of Troost Avenue and the need to increase pay for city employees.
The budget includes a pay increase for city employees to match comparable market pay.
Resident Lamar Vickers asked the council for a comprehensive plan that addresses crime, trash and housing in the 3rd and 5th districts.
“It is time that we truly sit down (and) address this,” he said. “They talk about east of Troost. Let's go east of Paseo. … And let's help and work together to make this city better and safer for all.”
Amanda Wilson of LISC Greater Kansas City, a local nonprofit that supports community development initiatives, asked the city to enhance its support of affordable housing by allocating more money to the Housing Trust Fund and by adequately staffing the Housing and Community Development Department, which split from the Neighborhoods Department last year.
“The city must also dedicate resources to identify and secure other sources of ongoing sustainable funding for the Housing Trust Fund,” Wilson said.
Several residents asked the city to provide more funding to support and rehabilitate Parade Park, a Black-owned housing-cooperative near the 18th and Vine district. Councilwoman Melissa Robinson recently introduced an ordinance that would allocate $4 million to Parade Park. Half of those funds would come from the city’s Housing Trust Fund and the other half from federal American Rescue Plan funds.
Henrietta Harris, 79, a resident of Parade Park, said she wants the city to provide more funding to repair roofs and rehab existing units. Harris emphasized that she doesn’t want Parade Park redeveloped but rehabbed so that residents can continue living there.
“When you get redevelopment, the people that are there are out,” Harris said. “Parade Park is a Black-owned corporation for 60 years. It won't be that with redevelopment. We want a rehabilitation, we want help in fixing our buildings up and doing our roofs, making our grounds better. ”
Harris said she felt encouraged that council members were listening to the needs of Parade Park residents.
“We've had so many promises from so many people and nothing has materialized,” Harris said. “So I am tired of people promising and saying, ‘Well, yeah, you could do this,’ you know, and do nothing. We need doers.”