The City of Wichita released its preliminary budget for 2018-19 during Mayor Jeff Longwell’s weekly news briefing. The full Proposed Budget will be released on Tuesday and available at www.wichita.gov
There will be a special meeting on Thursday, July 20 at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 455 N. Main. The evening meeting is another example of City officials engaging residents at a time and place convenient for them. City officials will live Tweet the meeting so that residents who are unable to attend can follow along at #ictbudget17. The Proposed Budget is the only item on the agenda for the meeting.
There will also be public hearings during regularly scheduled City Council meetings at 9 a.m. on Aug. 1 and Aug. 8. The Aug. 8 meeting represents the final public hearing and the day the Council, according to state law, must adopt the budget.
To engage residents on the annual budget process, City officials have made presentations to District Advisory Boards, held two Town Hall Social Media events and used the social network Nextdoor. The Mayor and City Council members are encouraging residents to provide feedback on the budget, particularly on key proposals such as funding the implementation of the first phase of the police staffing study.
The proposed budget is a more than $500 million spending plan that addresses public safety, quality of life, cultural arts, economic development and other proposed expenditures and reductions. The town hall precedes planned budget workshops and other community engagement efforts related to the 2017-2018 Proposed Budget. See the budget highlights:
- Community involvement helped shape budget recommendations. The June 15 and June 20 Social Media Town Hall events, which used Facebook, Twitter, and Nextdoor, gathered feedback from residents, including 670 comments. Staff also presented information through traditional meeting channels at District Advisory Board meetings in each City Council district.
- The 2018 mill levy rate is unchanged. The 2018 budget is based on an estimated mill levy rate equal to last year’s rate. This is the 24th consecutive year the mill levy has remained stable. Police Staffing Study recommendations are funded. The 2018 Proposed Budget includes funding to implement the first phase of recommendations, in order to respond to calls in a timely manner and provide proactive policing. Police officer positions will be added in order to improve officer availability, increase community engagement, and boost problem-solving. Community service officer positions will be added to provide services that can be carried out by civilian staff.
- Parking and Mobility functions are centralized. In order to improve downtown mobility and integrate parking policy and operations, three parking enforcement positions are transferred from the Police Department to the City Manager’s Office. Parking meter collection is moved from Public Works & Utilities.
- Transit operations have been stabilized. A portion of the proceeds from the City of Wichita selling the Hyatt Regency Hotel ($4 million) will be used to implement the four-year sustainability plan that aims to stabilize the system by building ridership, use data to refine the fixed route system, develop alternative modes, and leverage partnerships.
- The Advanced Learning Library will open in 2018. The 2018 Proposed Budget adds five full-time and six part-time positions (8 FTE) to supplement staffing at the new Advanced Learning Library. Staffing will allow summer Sunday hours at that facility and provide additional technology capabilities, including expanded digital collections
- Street maintenance improvements continue. The Capital Improvement Program and Operating Budget are integrated to provide $8 million in funding in 2018, and $10 million in 2019.
- Flood prevention efforts are funded. Recently approved Stormwater Utility rate adjustments are included. These funds will allow additional maintenance, increased funding for small drainage projects, and more funding for capital equipment. Additional improvements will also be included in the Capital Improvement Program
- Zero-based budgeting resulted in service alignment changes. To better align services with departmental missions, the call center, zoning enforcement, safety training, solid waste hauler licensing, and special alcohol fund programs are transferred to different departments in the 2018 Proposed Budget
- Reserves are maintained at appropriate levels. The 2018 budget includes General Fund reserves of $29.5 million, which is greater than 10% of projected expenditures, in accordance with City Council policy.