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Despite funding dispute, Kansas City police get more money in proposed budget

A man stands in front of an airport terminal and the red, white and blue flag.
Kansas City, Missouri YouTube
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas delivers the State of the City speech in front of the new Kansas City International Airport terminal on Feb. 8, 2023.

Kansas City officials unveiled the budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year on Thursday. The city will spend even more on police than the 25% of its general fund required after Missouri voters passed Amendment 4 in November.

The Kansas City Police Department is slated to receive by far the largest slice of Kansas City’s $2 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year – $280 million.

The KCPD’s budget comes from the city’s general fund, which amounts to about $610 million for the upcoming fiscal year. The general fund takes up 30% of the city’s total budget, and funds most city departments.

“A budget is considered how this city council and city values its services,” said Kansas City Budget Officer Krista Morrison.

About $1.3 billion of the city budget goes toward governmental activities, which includes public safety, housing and infrastructure. Of that amount, public safety — which includes the KCPD, the fire department and municipal courts — costs $542 million.

The city’s general fund revenue is up 7.6% from last year due to increases from earnings taxes and other local taxes.

Policing and violence prevention

Because of the passage of Amendment 4, Kansas City is required to allocate 25% of its general revenue to the KCPD.

The proposed budget for the KCPD for next year is an increase from this year’s current $269 million budget. Of the new total, $240 million comes from the city’s general fund — more than the 25% mandated by state law.

The increase from last year’s budget will go toward more officers and 911 call dispatchers. A shortage in dispatchers has resulted in longer wait times for city residents seeking emergency services.

The city also allocated about $6 million for the design of a new detention and rehabilitation center.

“The city is committed to working with Chief Graves and the women and men of law enforcement to build a safer community from our department,” said Mayor Quinton Lucas during his State of the City Speech last night. “We ask that they continue the important work to build better community relations in every part of our city, particularly in our black community, and to maintain accountability to ensure that that which we just saw in Memphis would and could never happen in Kansas City.”

But the KCPD has come under fire in recent years for cops killing civilians, like the 2019 killing of Cameron Lamb by Eric DeValkenaere. DeValkenaere was sentenced to six years in prison last year in Lamb’s death.

The city will spend $6 million in the upcoming year on violence prevention efforts, after it saw a record number of homicides last year. That’s part of a $30 million investment over the next five years to combat violence.  

Funds for infrastructure and transit

In recent years, city officials have prioritized improving basic infrastructure, like resurfacing more streets, fixing broken sidewalks and improving its snow plowing system.

For the 2023 fiscal year, $1 million will go to support Vision Zero, a plan to reduce traffic deaths and injuries by improving intersections with a high number of crashes. Another $2.4 million will go toward fixing sidewalks located around schools.

The city will allocate $11 million to convert city streetlights to LED lights. That money is coming out of the budget for the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority. Eric Bunch asked why those dollars appear to come out of funding earmarked for buses and other transit.

“This looks like we're continuing to basically defund public transportation,” he said during Thursday’s Business Session meeting.

City Manager Brian Platt said despite the upfront cost, the city will save money by converting to LEDs. Some of the $11 million will also be offset by a $4.9 million increase in the KCATA sales tax.

“There is a $5 million savings when the program is implemented annually because of reduced maintenance and energy costs,” Platt said.

The city will also address some of the issues around short-term rentals. Last year, residents complained of loud and unruly Airbnbs, a majority of which were found to skirt city law and operate without a permit.

The budget includes $241,000 for the short-term rental program. Some of that will go toward hiring a dedicated short-term rental inspection team.

How you can participate

City Council will spend the next few weeks discussing the budget and hearing from residents. The final budget will be adopted on March 23.

Public budget hearings will take place on these dates:

  • Virtual: Saturday, Feb. 25, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
  • Virtual: Tuesday, March 7, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • In-person: Saturday, March 4, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at City Hall
As KCUR’s Missouri politics and government reporter, it’s my job to show how government touches every aspect of our lives. I break down political jargon so people can easily understand policies and how it affects them. My work is people-forward and centered on civic engagement and democracy. I hold political leaders and public officials accountable for the decisions they make and their impact on our communities. Follow me on Twitter @celisa_mia or email me at celisa@kcur.org.
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