Lawrence City Commission to start budget planning

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Lawrence city commissioners will kick off this year’s budget planning process on Tuesday by taking a broader look at where tax dollars are going and considering priorities.

The city manager’s formal budget presentation will be July 11, according to Tuesday’s meeting agenda. In the meantime, city staff members want guidance and feedback from the commission and the community.

Though the numbers are preliminary, a chart in the meeting agenda shows that city staff members are anticipating a $4.62 million budget shortfall. There will be known increases in expenditures, including employee step increases and union contract wage increases, according to the agenda.

City staff members will ask the commission to address these questions, according to the agenda:

1. Do you continue to support a market competitive compensation plan for all employees?
2. Do you have any guidance regarding the mill levy?
3. Do you have any guidance on the weighting of scoring criteria for our Priority Based Budget initiative?
4. Are there any specific programs identified in this presentation that you would like to see given a higher priority than the score indicated?
5. Are there any areas or services where we should look more closely for savings or that may not be as high a priority as in the past?

Dozens of community members showed up for the July budget presentation last year after learning of cuts city staff planned for Prairie Park Nature Center and the Lawrence Humane Society.

This year, staff members will use a new tool aimed at better community engagement called “Balancing Act,” according to the agenda.

“With this tool, members of our community can weigh in and provide feedback on which programs they would prefer we fund and at what level we fund them,” according to an agenda memo to the commission. “This information will be used to help inform the recommended budget, along with the prioritization of programs that we will discuss in the presentation.”

Here’s the presentation included in the commission’s agenda and public comment received as of Monday morning:

20230516-Lawrence-City-Comm-budget-pres

The Lawrence City Commission will meet beginning at 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 16 at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St. The meeting will start with a 25-minute executive session (meaning behind closed doors) with attorneys. Commissioners usually begin the open public meetings at 5:45 p.m.

Budget planning is the last item on the commission’s regular agenda for Tuesday’s meeting. See the full agenda at this link.

The meeting will be livestreamed on the city’s YouTube channel and available via Zoom. Register for the Zoom meeting at this link. The commission will hear public comment in person and via Zoom. Members of the public can send written comments to be included in the agenda until noon Monday to ccagendas@lawrenceks.org.

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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