Wichita City Council approves $543 million spending limit in 2014

Wichita will spend no more than $543 million in 2014, a 2 percent increase over the 2013 budget, City Council members decided Tuesday.

The council unanimously approved the spending limit for a budget that doesn’t raise property taxes and increases street maintenance through contracted work, but trims public safety programs slightly and forecasts cuts in quality of life programs in 2015.

City Manager Robert Layton and council members say the budget maintains the city’s commitment to core public services.

Layton presented his recommended budget Tuesday. The council will hold a public hearing Aug. 6 on the budget and is scheduled to formally approve it on Aug. 13.

What the 2014 budget means to the owner of a $100,000 home in Wichita is this: $373 in property taxes to the city — $276 for the city’s operating budget and $97 to cover capital improvements.

The proposed budget maintains the city’s strategic reserves at $23 million and shifts about $1 million from the city’s general fund to its debt service fund.

It reallocates fire department resources, affecting six firefighter jobs and one management position, and delays for three months the 2014 police recruit class, saving the city $864,000. The city says it has no plans for layoffs and plans to shift any employees affected by job changes into other positions.

The city stands to save $397,000 by reducing the growth of health insurance premiums through internal wellness programs.

Council member Janet Miller said the skin-tight 2014 budget brings the city closer to service reductions as it battles miniscule economic growth and static property tax revenues.

“There’s been a clamoring for reduced government, at some point we have that,” Miller said.

“We’re going to be at a point where the clamoring for reduced government results in fewer services, and I look forward to having that discussion.”

The budget also proposes several cuts to quality of life programs in 2015 to save money, including cuts in amenities at Riverside and Watson Park that would save almost $250,000. Fees for CityArts programming are scheduled to rise in 2015, and the city is proposing taking $500,000 from the bed tax fund to cover cultural facility maintenance.

Some highlights from the 2014 budget:

“That’s significant,” Layton said, “not only related to our own capital improvement program for streets and other programs, but for utility improvements.

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