KANSAS CITY, Mo.-- — When Kansas City, Missouri's proposed 2020-21 budget is unveiled Thursday, at least one organization will receive $500,000 less than previous years.
The proposed budget calls for a reduction of that amount in city funding to Children's Mercy Hospital.
"It is not a matter of trying to be punitive in any way," Councilmember Dan Fowler, who represents District 2 told 41 Action News. "It's a matter of trying to balance very scarce resources."
Nothing is set in stone yet, but the proposed cut comes after discussion from a number of stakeholders.
"We understand that they have an operating profit, if you will, and yet have other safety net providers in the city that do provide services to children that are basically hand-to-mouth," Fowler said.
41 Action News reviewed the city's funding to the hospital over the past several years.
Since the 2016-17 fiscal year, the city has adopted in its budget $649,874 in funding for Children's Mercy Hospital.
But for the 2020-21 fiscal year, the hospital's funding is expected to be $500,000 less.
City leaders believe $500,000 is the amount Children's Mercy Hospital pays for the naming rights of Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas
"I think what we need to understand is – what's good for the best interest of public health in Kansas City?" Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Quinton Lucas said. "It's beyond one institution. It's beyond one mayor. It's beyond one individual."
Hospital officials told o 41 Action News in a provided statement that the proposed cuts would be "devastating":
"This unexpected and drastic cut, that we learned about today from the media, threatens the health and well-being of our children. The city funds we receive, usually around $650,000 annually, are used to offset the more than $3.5 million in uncompensated care that we provide to underserved and often uninsured children in Kansas City, Missouri. As a nonprofit hospital, we care for the most vulnerable children, including those with physical, mental and behavioral issues caused by the violence in our city. We support the mayor’s call for more funding to address mental health issues, especially for our children. So we are confused by this devastating cut."
Discussions are underway on how to reallocate the money. One proposal is redirecting the money to the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department (KCPD) to hire more social workers to help reduce crime.
"It's a very valued program that we have, and it set us apart from any other police department in the country," Sgt. Jacob Becchina, a spokesperson for KCPD, said.
The department went from having one social worker serving the entire department to now having one at every patrol division.
"By making a difference in one aspect of a person's life where they have challenges or a need, then they won't find a way into the criminal justice system," Becchina said.
On Thursday, the city manager will present the proposed budget to the city council and mayor.
There will then be a series of public meetings to get input before city leaders debate and vote on the budget.