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Olathe brings public into planning for 2015 budget

Special to The Star

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On the web

Residents seeking more information about the proposed 2015 budget and CIP are encouraged to visit www.olatheks.org/Finance/Budget/BudPlan.

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Before it’s set in stone, Olathe wants residents to take a hard look at the proposed 2015 general budget.

The city asked the public to weigh in at a public input budget session on Monday evening. City staff gave a presentation on the upcoming budget and the city’s Capital Improvements Plan, which is a five-year listing of major public improvement projects.

The city has worked hard over the past several years to make sure the budget is as transparent as possible, said Emily Vincent, the Olathe budget manager.

“Citizens’ input is a vital part of the budget process,” she said. “The budget is the most important policy decision the city council reviews, so it’s essential to get feedback from our residents.”

In addition to attending public meetings, Olathe residents can submit ideas or questions on the city’s website, its social media accounts, or by phone or in person at City Hall.

Residents are also encouraged to contact their city council representative or the mayor with any feedback.

Two Olathe residents who showed up to the public input session on Monday evening were glad they took the opportunity.

Doug Osa and his wife, Ruthie, decided it was time to educate themselves on what was going on in their town.

“The pastor of our church pointed out to our congregation that it’s our responsibility as citizens to take an active role in the community,” Osa said. “We realized we’ve lived here 34 years and we’ve never even been to a City Council meeting. So when we heard this budget session was taking place the next day, it seemed like perfect timing.”

He was impressed by the clear and concise presentation by city staff.

“It’s really interesting to see how the budget works,” he said.

Ruthie Osa agreed.

“We’re thrilled with Olathe as a city,” she said. “We’ve never felt money was wasted on anything. They run a tight ship and this meeting just proved it. I’m looking forward to checking out their website and attending the next meeting.”

Their enthusiasm pleased budget staff.

“Talking to citizens and finding out their priorities and suggestions is the fun part of the budget for us,” Vincent said. “People really do care and want to be involved, which is exciting.”

She said the city has a variety of valuable budget resources on its website. Power points from the budget sessions and budget documents are posted so all residents can keep up with the process.

There aren’t many significant changes or new programs to the proposed 2015 general budget, Vincent said.

Its main focus is maintaining the city’s aging infrastructure, with street improvements being a top priority.

Other highlights in the proposed budget include raising the water and sewer fund by 4.3 percent, with water and sewer rates increasing by 4.7 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively, to fund capital maintenance projects.

The 2015 proposed general fund operating budget tentatively sits at $83.4 million, which is nearly a 5 percent increase from the 2014 budget of $79.4 million.

The City Council will hold a budget workshop at its meeting at 7 p.m. on July 15. A budget public hearing will be held at the Aug. 5 city council meeting. The council is set to adopt the 2015 general budget and Capital Improvements Plan at its meeting on Aug. 19.

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