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Friday, Jun. 22, 2012

Olathe considers 5.7 percent budget increase

Special to The Olathe News

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Olathe’s proposed budget for 2013 shows a stable financial outlook, the City Council heard this week.

City manager Mike Wilkes presented the proposal to the governing body at Tuesday evening’s council meeting.

The proposed budget is $75.8 million, which is a 5.7 percent increase from last year.

The lack of significant increases or decreases shows Olathe is back on its feet after a rocky economy, Wilkes said.

“Because of the decisions the City Council made during tough economic times, I’m happy to see Olathe is in good condition,” he said. “The council treated the recession like our taxpayers would — by cutting non-priority items.”

In 2009, the council took the public’s advice and made cuts in areas such as human resources, code enforcement, youth programs and other areas.

Now, it looks like the sacrifices have paid off.

“Our budget is only two percent below what it was in 2008, which is a big deal,” Wilkes said. “And we have 7,000 more people and 100 less city employees now.”

He contributes the victory to the public’s input.

When it comes to the budget, the city takes residents’ suggestions and concerns seriously, he said.

The city will hold an e-Town Hall meeting on July 10 to discuss the budget and Capital Improvements Plan.

Budget workshops are also planned for late July and early August. The City Council is scheduled to adopt the budget on Aug. 21.

Wilkes hopes the public will see that Olathe is headed in the right direction.

“The future looks good for Olathe right now,” he said. “Jobs are being created, we’re seeing an upstart in housing permits and more companies are investing in our community.”

At the council meeting, Wilkes also revealed the city’s Capital Improvement Program, which outlines major projects planned for the next five years.

Key projects include the new community center, which will cost around $28.5 million, the reconstruction of 127th Street, from Black Bob to Pflumm, which will cost $17.8 million, and the construction of a two-lane concrete paved roadway on 159th Street, from Old 56 Highway to Interstate 35, which will cost $19.3 million.

Wilkes and city staff felt it was important that most of the projects focused on Olathe’s aging infrastructure, in order to maintain a solid future.

“We don’t want our kids to have to solve the problems we create today,” he said.

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