Leavenworth city commissioners kicked off a series of budget work sessions Wednesday discussing budgets for departments such as the police and Parks and Recreation.

Leavenworth city commissioners kicked off a series of budget work sessions Wednesday discussing budgets for departments such as the police and Parks and Recreation.

Commissioners are reviewing individual funds that make up the proposed 2014 budget for the city. Additional budget sessions are scheduled for this afternoon and Friday at Leavenworth City Hall.

City staff have recommended a 1.73 mill levy increase as part of the proposed $25.3 million budget. Such a mill levy change would result in a property tax increase that would work out to an additional $2.49 per month for the owner of a $150,000 home, according to information provided to commissioners.

One possible budget cut commissioners discussed Wednesday is in the area of parking enforcement.

This was reviewed as one of the budgets for the Leavenworth Police Department. The proposed budget for parking enforcement in 2014 is $52,870, which is far more than the revenue that is anticipated to come from things such as parking fines and fees for permit parking.

The budgeted revenue for parking enforcement for 2014 is $6,950.

"Do you need this operation?" Mayor Pro-Tem Mark Preisinger asked.

City Manager Scott Miller suggested this is something that has to be given consideration. He said commissioners need to determine if this is an essential service for the community.

Police Chief Pat Kitchens said said the parking enforcement program exists for parking spaces with time limits in the downtown area. He said this requires rotations through the downtown area every three hours.

This currently is handled by a parking enforcement officer. If this position is eliminated, patrol officers would not be able to take over the policing of the timed parking areas.

"We just don't have the time," Kitchens said.

He said police still could handle things such as people illegally parking in handicap spaces.

Commissioner Larry Dedeke suggested there wouldn't be a parking problem if downtown merchants prevented their employees from parking on Delaware Street.

Commissioner Lisa Weakley said people who are abusing downtown parking will abuse it more if the parking enforcement program is cut.

Some parking spaces in the downtown area have three-hour time limits. But Preisinger said there's not enough for him to do downtown to kill three hours.

Preisinger said downtown parking is a problem business owners address themselves. He said he doesn't see retail customers abusing the parking downtown.

"We're looking at a tight budget," he said. "This is one thing I think we can consider."

Commissioners asked what would happen to the current parking enforcement officer if her program is cut.

"We would hope to absorb her in a position that becomes vacant," Miller said.

No decision was made regarding whether to cut the parking enforcement program.

"We can think about this," Mayor Laura Janas Gasbarre said.

Finance Director Dan Williamson said commissioners typically make decisions when they wrap up things at the conclusion of the third day of the budget work sessions. But if they don't reach a consensus Friday, they could have further discussion during a future meeting.

He said the proposed budget needs to be published in the newspaper by the end of the month ahead of a public hearing.

The public hearing on the budget likely will be held during an Aug. 13 meeting of the City Commission. Commissioners will be able to approve the budget following the hearing.

Another issue that came up is the idea of giving commissioners the option of signing up for medical insurance through the city.

This idea was proposed by Preisinger. He suggested it may increase the number of people who run for the City Commission.

"I think you just get a better candidate list," he said.

He said he's in favor of adding commissioners to the city's health insurance program the same as employees.

Weakley said she believes the public perception would be that commissioners don't deserve the health insurance benefit.

"You're increasing the personnel cost, and that's how they're going to see it," she said.

Gasbarre said people look at the commissioners as elected officials not employees of the city.

Another issue that came up during Wednesday's budget session is an admission fee at Sportsfield.

At one time, the city charged a $1 admission fee for attending ballgames at the park. But commissioners later struck down the fee.

Gasbarre continues to support the idea of the admission fee.

"I still don't understand why we don't have a gate fee," she said.

She asked Preisinger why he is still against the fee.

He said the people who attend the games are mostly parents of children whose teams are paying to use the fields.