Politics & Government

Wichita plans to spend more money for police, street repairs in 2020

Wichita hopes new ‘speed tables’ will slow down traffic

The city of Wichita is installing two speed tables on Second Street through Old Town as part of its ongoing effort to slow the flow of traffic in the center of the city.
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The city of Wichita is installing two speed tables on Second Street through Old Town as part of its ongoing effort to slow the flow of traffic in the center of the city.

More police and more money for street maintenance are among the highlights of next year’s Wichita city budget.

City Manager Robert Layton presented the $624.5 million spending plan to the City Council on Tuesday.

Public safety took center stage with police spending, the largest line item in the budget, rising from the $90.6 million spent this year to $94.2 million next year.

Police spending is expected to go up again in 2021, to $98.3 million.

Since 2018, City Hall has implemented the first phase of a police staffing study, adding 31 positions — 20 officers and 11 support employees.

This year’s budget contains funding for an additional seven officers who are already on the job, but whose salaries are currently being paid with federal grant money that’s about to expire. Those officers are assigned to the South Broadway corridor, an area struggling with prostitution and drug sales.

“We’re recommending those positions be shifted to (being funded by) the property tax and stay in the police budget, but that obviously has a significant impact on the 2020 budget,” Layton said.

Street maintenance will get a boost from the budget. The outsourced pavement preservation program, which uses contractors to fix and resurface streets, will go from $9 million this year to $10 million next year.

Street maintenance funding is expected to increase to $18 million a year by 2028, Layton told the council

Overall, the largest category of city income is from service fees, mostly water and sewer bills, about $222 million. Property tax is a distant second at almost $123 million.

The biggest city expenditures are salaries and benefits, $241 million; debt repayment, $159 million; and contracting, $103 million.

The city’s property tax rate is forecast to stay steady at 32.692 mills.

Senior Journalist Dion Lefler has been providing award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business in Wichita for 20 years. Dion hails from Los Angeles, where he worked for the LA Daily News, the Pasadena Star-News and other papers. He’s a father of twins, director of lay servant ministries in the United Methodist Church and plays second base for the Old Cowtown vintage baseball team.
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