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KCK Mayor Mark Holland On What Wyandotte County Residents Want Done With A $12 Million Windfall

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The Unified Government Of Wyandotte County
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Kansas City, Kansas mayor Mark Holland wants his residents to help him solve a city budget puzzle.

The CEO of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County is in the middle of a listening tour to hear what residents think their government should do with an extra $12 million a year — which stems from the paying off of bonds for the Village West development.

The listening sessions, which have each attracted around 100 people, have left Mayor Holland with no shortage of suggestions.

“The line has already formed, so you need not jump in it now,” he joked with Up To Date host Steve Kraske.

On the lists of potential uses for the $12 million windfall:  “Our mill levy is too high. We have to reduce taxes,” Holland said. 

The difference between spending the money on long-term investments and one-time projects has been one of the discussions on his tour, and finding the right balance has been a challenge.

“How much of the $12 million should be put to reducing taxes? Because frankly we could put all of it towards that, but we could put all of it towards infrastructure. We could put all of it towards catching up with our employees on salaries. We have enough holes that we could apply all the money in one place.”

Holland joined Steve Kraske last Wednesday on Up To Date. Here are some of the things he has been talking about so far on his tour.

Replenishing the general fund balance

“Refilling fund balances is very un-sexy. But really, for our credit rating and for good government you've got to have a solid fund balance and restoring our fund balances from the recession is a high priority of the commission, but it’s not very fun. The good news is, you put $5 million into your fund balance, next year that $5 million is there to spend again. It’s still in your fund balance, and you can make a decision, so its committed over time.”

Reducing the annual mill-levy

“If you put a million dollars towards mill levy reduction, which is a lot of money, for a house of $100,000 it reduces your [annual levy] about $13 a year. So if you put $3 million [towards mill levy reduction,] you've reduced a $100,000-house-cost $36 a year. Well that's not very exciting, but we've got to do that over time. It’s hard to get people excited about a $13 mill levy reduction annually. But at the same time, if we don't take the steps now and leverage this opportunity, when will we ever do it?”

Tempering expectations and understanding how a city budget works

“[We want] to give people a real engagement in the real puzzle. Re-building an urban community is legitimately hard. Or somebody would have already done it and taken credit for it.

"You've got to tell the story. It’s been fascinating because as we've talked about this with folks, they really delve into the budget. We give them budget examples, you know, how much it costs to plow the streets, how much it costs to do a mile of road grind and overlay, how much it takes to build new sidewalks. It's so ridiculously expensive but its very helpful.”

So far, Holland has completed three out of eight stops on his tour and has been excited about the conversations he’s had.

“This is, I think, the next step of government and I think this is the next step of transparency in government. People want to be engaged in the puzzle, not just informed about the outcome of the policy but engaged in the process of how the policy is made,” he said.

The next listening session, for District 4, will take place at 5:30 p.m., Aug. 25 at Wyandotte High School.

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.