Aug. 17, 2019

Mallory Herrmann

City staff are looking ahead to possible tightening of Lee’s Summit’s general fund budgets.

In a presentation to the city council’s finance and budget committee this week, City Manager Steve Arbo shared a look at decades past as the city prepares to enter the 2020s. Highlighting major population growth in Lee’s Summit through the 1970s (up 77.4%), 1980s (up 61.5%), and 1990s (up 52.3%), Arbo noted that the slight dip in those numbers through the 2000s (29.2%) and 2010s (10.5%) has given the city a chance to make infrastructure improvements in response.

But maintaining a healthy general fund reserve is becoming increasingly difficult as the city seeks to provide stormwater solutions, address curb repairs, deliver exceptional emergency response services, compensate city employees at market rates and more.

“We’re finding it more and more challenging to be able to provide the city services that we want to – and that our citizens are expecting – under the current funding program that we have,” Arbo said.

Arbo said he did not want to approach the council with a problem for them to solve, but is seeking to begin a conversation about how to prepare for potentially tough years ahead.

As operations costs continue to rise, there is concern about the city’s reliance on sales tax revenues (particularly from brick-and-mortar stores while online sales continue to grow) and some uncertainty about how to plan for new growth – particularly with approximately 4,000 acres currently owned by Property Reserve Inc. expected to open up for development.

“Let’s make sure that we’re making decisions that are good for the long-term,” Arbo said.

He added that he is excited about where the city is at: these challenges are inevitable and are the types of challenges that the city has seen – and successfully overcome – before.

“This is a good start,” said Mayor Pro Tem Beto Lopez, calling for additional dialogue and objective, innovative thinking.

The discussion will continue with the full city council. In the meantime, Arbo says that staff will be reviewing additional spending metrics, aligning with priority-based budgeting standards and asking tough questions about how to prioritize resources for what is most important.

All committee members (Lopez and Councilmembers Bob Johnson, Trish Carlyle and Diane Forte) were present for the meeting.