Several members of the Lansing City Council are predicting that next week's meeting could be a long one because of one of the first items on the agenda — approval of the city's annual budget for 2014.
Council members said this week that's because they felt the process for reviewing the spending document for the coming year did not give them ample time to discuss potential cost savings or priority expenditures.
The council did have two different work sessions on the document — one June 27 focused on the overall picture and a more recent meeting July 11 outlined the expenditures that staff was recommending.
“We didn't get anything accomplished in that work session. I mean, we talked about stuff, but nobody made a decision,” said Councilman Gregg Buehler. “So the budget is going to come to us just like it came to us prior to that work session,” without changes.
What Councilman Tony McNeill said bothered him was the fact that council had reviewed and approved earlier a list of priorities for the coming year.
“We did establish priorities, we spent two work sessions on that,” he said. “What we didn't do was pay for a single priority in this year's budget.”
According to Mayor Billy Blackwell, that's not entirely true.
“In there, we've got the (Kansas Department of Health and Environment) plan (for the Seven-Mile Creek watershed), that's priority one,” he said, along with a performance incentive system for employees and the establishment of a reserve account for replacing city equipment.
And at this point, he said the city is approaching state-mandated publication and submission deadlines for its budget.
The city's proposed budget calls for an overall 1-mill increase in the property tax levy, which would go toward paying the city's share of costs to improve sewer and road infrastructure at the site of the new Lansing High School.
Even following the budget sessions in which the document was presented to them, Buehler said he still had concerns that the council did not have an adequate opportunity to give their own input on the budget.
Councilman Kerry Brungardt called the budget perhaps the single most important thing the council does each year, suggesting a new approach.
“I think we are at the point with the budget where we need to start even earlier and allow more work session time so we don't have these concerns,” he said.
Blackwell agreed, saying he had already planned to have a work session next year devoted entirely to the process of studying the budget itself. In the meantime, he encouraged the council to let either he or city staff know what they would like to see.
Page 2 of 2 - And Blackwell said he was not opposed to having some debates over the 2014 budget at the regular meeting next week.
“I'm sure we'll have a good discussion in terms of what each of us think should be there in terms of those items and what shouldn't be and when I get to a place where I think we've got a decent consensus with a proposal, I'll call the role and if it doesn't pass, we'll back up and talk some more and get it adjusted where it will pass,” he said. “But we're going to try to pass a budget here next Thursday night.”