Proposed Wichita city budget includes fee increases, probably no layoffs

08/23/2013 4:55 PM

08/06/2014 1:09 AM

City Council members will get another detailed look Tuesday at the city’s proposed $533.4 million budget for 2013.

The council is expected to set an Aug. 14 public hearing for the 2013 budget after a presentation by City Manager Robert Layton and his staff.

Layton said Monday that the presentation will include only subtle changes to the budget he unveiled in late June. That proposed $213.5 million general fund budget eliminates projected deficits of $5.4 million in 2013 and $6.7 million in 2014 while avoiding layoffs for now. It does include several proposed fee increases that the council will consider.

“The only change is we probably won’t increase parking rates as much at City Hall. We won’t be on par with the county (as originally proposed),” Layton said. “Some of the comments from the joint DAB (district advisory board) meeting about making it harder to do business here are legitimate. We do need to increase it some because people are parking here and not using city facilities.”

The county charges a 75-cent maximum per half-hour with a maximum daily rate of $5.

City officials say they think they’ve eliminated possible layoffs and have determined that 90 of the city’s 200 vacant jobs must be filled to maintain basic service levels. Over the past three years, the city has pared about 200 positions and about $20 million from the general fund, Layton said.

Thirty-seven city jobs will be eliminated, the city manager said, but only eight of those are filled. Most, if not all, of those people will be moved to other jobs. Nineteen eliminated jobs would be from the office of central inspection, eight from the police department and 10 from engineering. The police positions are seven street officers and one parking officer. Council members said officers on military deployment will not lose their positions.

Other proposed fee increases:

•  Fire inspection cost recovery: The Wichita Fire Department is proposing a $65 fee for drinking establishments, in addition to a $250 licensing fee. High-hazard occupancies would also be charged a $65 fee.
•  Convenience payment fees: Based on the approximately 300,000 electronic transactions occurring annually at city hall, a proposed $1 fee per transaction would increase revenue by an estimated $300,000.
•  Pre-sentence investigation fees for drug court defendants: No estimates are available for these fees, which had been funded by the state.

Some highlights from the proposed expense cuts:

•  Resetting the transit subsidy: City staff proposes using the remaining $1.2 million in the contingency reserve fund to supplement transit spending through 2014, thus reducing the need for general fund tax support. West-side bus routes would be reconfigured without eliminating any services, Manning said.
•  Cutting fuel use by 3 percent in 2013 and 5 percent in 2014, generating an estimated $120,000 in 2013 and $270,000 in 2014.
•  Eliminating Sister Cities travel to reduce the travel budget by $11,200.
•  No funding increase for economic development: The budgeted amount for the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition would remain at $300,000, reducing budget projections for 2013 and 2014 by a total of $75,000.

Tuesday’s meeting is the latest in two months of budget sessions between Layton and the council, including a workshop and several one-on-one meetings.

Council members will take public comment Tuesday, schedule a public hearing for August and plan another Twitter town hall.

“Not a lot of comments came through,” Layton said about the late June social media effort. “We’re going to try to publicize this one more and get more dialogue going.”

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