Expect more empty chairs in City Hall next year.
Faced with an $8 million shortfall, City Manager Robert Layton plans to cut about 65 jobs, put remaining workers on furlough and reorganize the management structure.
City Hall and the Wichita school board, which had fought in previous years over funding police officers in schools, have agreed to put officers only in high schools to save both entities money.
Layton also plans to trim the hours the public can go into police substations even more — though it's unclear what the new hours will be.
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And he plans to consolidate call centers so that residents can call one number to ask a question about their water bill and report their neighbor's tall weeds or barking dog at the same time.
Those are the highlights of the 2011 budget.
More details will emerge Monday when Layton releases his proposed $500 million budget.
Wichita is one of hundreds of cities that are dealing with the economic downturn by laying off workers and not raising their share of property taxes.
More than 90 percent of the 379 cities that responded to a National League of Cities survey last year said they had cut spending in 2009.
And 82 percent planned to cut more this year.
About 45 percent said they had increased some fees to bring in more revenue.
About a quarter of the cities had raised property taxes.
Wichita City Council members have been adamant that they won't raise property taxes.
The owner of a $100,000 house in Wichita pays $369 a year in property taxes to support just the city's operations. The city portion is about 27 percent of property taxes — the rest goes to the school district, county, state and Wichita State University.
Thus far, this year's budget cuts have drawn fewer vocal complaints than last year's, when the city outsourced the mowing of city parks.
It's debatable how much this year's cuts will affect residents.
The city has about 3,000 employees. And workers from several departments have said they're worried about their jobs and wonder how they can do the same work with fewer people.
"The city of Wichita is in a situation where it's contracting," said Harold Schlechtweg, business agent and organizer for Service Employees International Union Local 513. "I don't think you can do that without having an impact on services."
But he said it's clear the city has to do something to deal with its deficit, and he focuses on the management.
"I think that there's too many supervisors reporting to supervisors who are reporting to supervisors," Schlechtweg said. "I'd like to see the top command much closer to the grunts on the ground. I think that could be done and increase efficiency."
Not surprisingly, he opposes privatizing public jobs.
Layton has been talking with the union about privatizing custodial services, but Layton said he will probably negotiate a way to cut costs but not outsource.
Matt Goolsby, a member of the district advisory board in southwest Wichita and the park board, said he likes Layton's approach to the budget and commends him for taking questions about it in public forums last month.
"I think it's only reasonable to understand in the times we're living in today whoever you are — public or private — you have to tighten your belt right now," he said.
Goolsby said keeping taxes down is key.
"As long as I call 911 and someone answers the phone and the mill levy isn't raised, I'm pretty happy," he said.
The City Council is slated to discuss the budget in a workshop July 27, hold a public hearing at its 9 a.m. meeting Aug. 3 and adopt the budget Aug. 10.