Did you miss Money Talks for Safer Streets, BikeWalkKC’s first budget advocacy training? Watch the recording of the virtual training or catch up on what we discussed in the blog below!
Budget season is upon us, Kansas City! That means it’s a prime opportunity to advocate for funds to support places for people. Though this is an important process, it can feel intimidating to try to understand what’s in the budget and what to ask for. That’s why BikeWalkKC has put together this overview of the process and what we plan to push for as the budget takes shape.
If you’re planning to attend the meetings, fill out this form so we can send you additional information and reminders.
What’s in the KCMO Budget?
The Office of Management and Budget has submitted a proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2023-24. You can read the entire budget on the website, and see highlights in this document. There are a few things to keep in mind when looking at this:
- Revenue - The biggest tax revenue sources are earnings, sales, and property taxes. Service charges are services that residents have to pay to access things like health or parks and recreation.
- Expenditures - Missouri’s Hancock Amendment requires city-wide votes to raise taxes beyond the rate of inflation. The earnings tax is capped at 1% by state law and cannot be increased even if it was put to a vote. Sales taxes also have caps under state law and voters cannot raise them beyond specific limits.
- What Remains - After removing expenditures that are dedicated to things like public transit and public hospitals, there is a much smaller amount of discretionary spending that the city can move between uses. The Police and Fire departments take more than 70% of the general fund (including a required 25% for police, per Missouri state law as of November). This leaves a very small amount to be divided up between other priorities. This is where advocates like you come in.
How is the budget created?
While the specific dates for the budget process vary, the development of the budget follows a similar pattern year over year. It begins when each city department submits budget requests for consideration. Taking this information and legal obligations into account, the city’s budget office develops a proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. This is typically published in early to mid-February. Following public input and additional input from council members over the next few weeks, the City Council must formally approve a new budget by the end of March.
How can someone advocate within the process?
The primary way in which the City Council gathers public feedback is through a series of public meetings. These meetings occur in the time period between when the proposed budget is released and when the City Council is obligated to adopt a finalized budget.
The format of the meetings has also remained more or less the same. All participants (virtual or in person) are asked to indicate at the beginning of the meeting if they’d like to speak with regards to the budget. Then, they are invited to speak to the City Council regarding their issue. All speakers are allotted one minute to discuss their issue.
Because there’s a quick turnaround on scheduling/publicizing the meetings and there aren’t as many people who can make this work for their schedule, participation has typically been pretty low. Meetings scheduled for three hours have finished in as little as one because so few people show up to speak. That’s another reason why it’s really important for safe streets advocates to attend and speak up. It takes a much smaller amount of people to grab elected officials’ attention on a given issue. Twenty or thirty people speaking on the same issue can really make a difference.
- Saturday, February 25, 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
- Tuesday, March 7, 6:00 PM - 8:30 PM
- Saturday, March 4, 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
- City Hall, 26th Floor, 414 E 12th St
- If you bike: there is a RideKC Bike hub and bike rack at 12th and Oak. If you bus: use the Transit app to find a bus route. If you drive: free parking at Wolfe Garage (11th & Oak). Parking will be validated for hearing attendees.
- Join the Meeting
What is BikeWalkKC asking for?
BikeWalkKC will be advocating for three key items in the budget process to improve active transportation in Kansas City:
- Public Engagement Funding - If recent advocacy fights are any indication, KCMO needs to invest in more robust and targeted public engagement for transportation projects. It begins with funding dedicated staff for engagement, because it’s too much to ask the planners and engineers to also do the outreach. It should include innovative approaches, like on-the ground activities (such as walk audits or traffic calming demonstrations). It should also include better resources for materials translation, data evaluation, and tracking of all the outreach.
- Complete Streets Implementation - There is currently a $500,000/year dedicated line item for Complete Streets implementation. While this is a good first step, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what we need to rapidly make streets safer for everyone. We are asking for an increase in the line item to $1 million/year. This will not only allow for faster deployment of small-scale projects, but could also support bigger projects paid for by federal funding.
- Maintenance Elements - Finally, the city needs to invest in better maintenance elements to keep sidewalks, trails, and bike lanes clear. The most prominent example of what this could look like are smaller street sweepers specifically designed to fit on these forms of infrastructure. While major cities elsewhere already have these in their municipal fleet, North Kansas City is the only community in our region with such equipment.