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Proposed KCMO budget cuts would 'add insult to injury' for some programs

Posted at 5:37 PM, Jun 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-19 12:57:12-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City, Missouri, government department heads are scanning through their budgets after acting City Manager Earnest Rouse tasked them with scaling their budgets back by 4.5%.

A sharp decline in sales and property tax revenues has created a shortfall due to COVID-19 restrictions.

"We are trying to make sure that we’re going all around the edges to see what savings we do have," Mayor Quinton Lucas said.

The cuts could come from the administrative side, Lucas said, so services such as trash pickup and potholes are less impacted.

"Much like anybody’s household, you still buy food, maybe you cut out vacations or something like that," Lucas said. "We’ve eliminated all travel for city employees and those are the steps we’re taking."

Some initiatives, such as the new fare-free bus program through the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, could see more funding from federal money, Lucas said.

"That will help us fund the rest of this year for zero-fare transit, and so we are in a good place to make sure the program is active, it’s permanent and it’s going well," Lucas said.

Local economists tell 41 Action News that every single city will largely be impacted and will probably be the longest-affected entity by the pandemic.

"Their revenue stream was literally cut by probably a third, and it’s going to be very difficult for them to get it back," said Chris Kuehl of Armada Corporate Intelligence. "All they can really do is reduce staff. They can try to cut some of the services they provide; there’s a limit to what they can do with that."

It's money that isn't flowing into ArtsKC either. The regional arts council has been greatly impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, including the cancellation of events such as First Fridays and different festivals.

"We know not only will the arts take a major hit because of COVID and continue because of the economic downturn, but also the arts is one of the most effective stimulants to the economy," said Branden Haralson, communications manager, engagement and public policy of ArtsKC.

Haralson said ArtsKC is funded by both private and public dollars and that any cut in funding would be critical.

"An additional cut to any art funding would certainly add insult to injury," Haralson said.

During this current fiscal year budget, Haralson told 41 Action News the Office of Culture and Creative Services lost more than $300,000, and any further reductions in funding would be devastating.

"We would encourage the city to find the funds that they need to cut in other places," Haralson said.

Any possible cuts would be debated at a KCMO City Council committee hearing next Wednesday. The topic would then be brought up again the following day during the City Council's business session at City Hall.