Friday, Jun. 21, 2013
Olathe council lays out priorities for 2014 budget
By JENNIFER BHARGAVA
Special to The Star
Enhancing public safety and maintaining infrastructure are the top two goals of Olathe’s 2014 budget.
At the City Council meeting Tuesday evening, city manager Michael Wilkes presented the proposed $79.4 million budget, which is a nearly five percent increase from last year. Public safety and transportation make up 64 percent of the budget, he stated. Increases to public safety will include the addition of staff to police, prosecution, fire and municipal courts. There also is an emphasis on the city’s street maintenance and preservation program.
“We believe we’re moving into a period where we need to maintain infrastructure because if we don’t invest in it now, it will make the problem worse,” Wilkes said.
There is no mill levy increase in the proposed budget, and it is meant to show a stable financial outlook for the city.
Wilkes pointed out Olathe owes its solid ground to the fact that it made smart choices during the 2008 recession.
“As we approached the economic downturn, we took action in preparing ourselves and we recognized the signs in advance,” he said. “We did it the same way the people in the community had to do — cut cost and repurpose the budget. Now that the economy is slowly beginning to come back, we want to make sure we refocus our attention on the priorities of the 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:
• Reconstruction of 127th Street from Black Bob to Pflumm, which will cost $8.7 million
• Phase one construction of the new fire training center, which will cost $3 million
• Reconstructing 159th Street to Old 56 Highway, which will cost $8.2 million
• Santa Fe streetscaping, which will cost $6.7 million
For the next couple of months, the city will be working with the council and the public to address questions and issues about the budget and the Capital Improvement Program.
On July 2, the city will hold an e-Town Hall meeting, followed by budget workshops on July 16 and possibly July 23. On Aug. 6, there will be an official public hearing. And on Aug. 20, the council plans to vote on the budget.
Wilkes encourages Olathe residents to attend the meetings and say how they want their tax dollars to be spent.
“There is always an opportunity for people to give us input,” he told people watching the televised version of the council meeting. “Don’t wait until Aug. 6.”
Council members had planned to consider whether to approve a proposed apartment complex on Tuesday, but they postponed the discussion until next month.
A developer has proposed building a 510-unit development called Olathe Commons near 119th and Alcan Streets. But the Planning Commission has recommended that the City Council deny the project.
Planners believe the complex is too dense for the area, which is surrounded by single-family homes.