Another year, another round of cuts for the City of Wichita. For the fourth year in a row the city must cut millions of dollars. City manager Bob Layton presented his plan to the city council Tuesday morning. This time however, the budget includes small raises for employees.
To come up with $5 million, the city will cut back on how much gas it uses. It plans to explore alternative fuels, review its vehicle take home policy and reduce idling. Layton also wants to increase municipal court costs by about $6 and reduce jail fees paid to Sedgwick County. That means putting fewer people in jail for misdemeanor charges, instead giving them diversion or mental health help.
Golfer's will likely be impacted by this budget proposal. Layton wants to shut down one of the city courses to save money. He's not sure which one yet, he says that will depend on attendance and the input of the Parks and Recreation Board. He says while city tax dollars don't go to fund the golf courses, they haven't been able to afford keeping up on capital improvement projects. Layton says by closing one golf course, they should be able to save up to $500,000 to invest back into the other courses.
While every dollars is being watched, the manager wants to spend $700,000 to add 15 more firefighters. By doing that, every station will be fully staffed. Right now, that's not happening when someone is sick or injured. He says on average they have three crews out each day. And since public safety is a priority for citizens and the city council, he thinks this is a needed expenditure. Eight more police officers will also be added because of grant funding. Those officer's will help fill in for other's on military duty.
Layton changed his initial recommendation and now proposes keeping Saturday bus service. To make it work, he recommends raising fares 50 cents and using reserve funds to help keep the transit system going. However Layton says it's only a temporary fix and a long term transit plan must be figured out soon.
Layton plans to cut back on some staff in the planning, engineering and central inspection departments. Those areas are suffering because of a lack of residential and commercial construction. Since there aren't as many projects being built, the work load is less and they are bringing in less revenue. Layton says it's still unclear how many people will lose their jobs. He also plans to offer early retirement to employees, about 300 are eligible. He's not sure of what the plan will be but says it will be similar to what Sedgwick County offered.
The city council will hold public hearing's on the budget during its regular council meetings. Council members will vote on the final budget August 9th.