Wednesday, July 29, 2009

2010 Budget Hearing - Long Night

It was a long one.

It started off with a very boring, long winded, self serving speech from 3d ward council rep Dawn Kuhn. Listening to her one would think she was responsible for the entire budget, for any savings that might occur, etc etc etc. From now on it is possible that a count may be taken of how many times she uses the words, "I, me, my and mine" at any given council meeting.

As a matter of fact I received an email from another resident who stated: " I came to the budget meeting last night, but I couldn't stay. I couldn't stand it. I had to listen to Dawn Kuhn's speech about how hard she has been working to balance "this budget for you." I was amazed to hear how defiant she was in her efforts to save me from a fate worse than Lenexa's. I was waiting to hear her promise not to waste another three million on Monticello, the Golden Highway, but I strained my ears in vain."

The possibility of a franchise fee is looming on the horizon. As 4th ward council rep Michelle Distler has pointed out, a franchise fee could have very negative consequences particularly on low income or fixed income folks. The federal plan for a cap and trade program could drive utility costs through the roof and then any franchise fee would rise accordingly. Naturally Shawnee could see a windfall at that, but at what expense to its citizens?

Some things were bothersome. The continuation of giving funds to Wonderscope. I produced their 2006 & 2007 Form 990 filings. At the end of 2007 they had over $165K in assets. That year their executive director received a $7K annual increase (an amount of approximately 15%).
Why did they need funding from the city? Their 2008 forms are not available yet but they would be interesting to see. Did the executive director's income go up? Did they have substantial assets at the end of the year? What about the current year? Am definitely waiting to see those forms. That money could go somewhere else where needed. Old Shawnee Town seems to be in a financial original suggestion to use as an offset to some road costs appears to be not functional. It was explained after the meeting that that money comes from the hotel tax and has to be used for "touristy things". OK.....Old Shawnee Town qualifies. No more hand outs to Wonderscope. Side note: Why was Dawn Kuhn vehement at the 7/13 council meeting about release of Wonderscope's financial info? Double side note: Form 990 is required, by federal law (IRS code), to be made available for public distribution.

Another resident of the community, Mike Egan, suggested an outside audit to see where money can be saved. Not an audit for fraud or anything like that, but a performance audit. His suggestion went on to state that the outside agency should be from out of state but licensed to do business in Kansas. Excellent idea. Kind of like the old "efficiency experts". An outsider's views can be very enlightening. It is possible they could find that the city is doing everything it can in a highly efficient manner. Staff and residents can sometimes be too close to the situation. An outsider's viewpoint can be a light at the end of the tunnel. (sorry for the cliché)

Kuhn did suggest some changes to the school crossing guard program which could save over $130K a year. In an email to the council prior to the hearing another resident thought that could be accomplished by using PTA volunteers. Yours truly presented the council with a proposal to have the schools take advantage of the school crossing guard program offered by AAA. They do it all over the country.............ahhhhhhhhh...............memories of 48 years ago. :-) :-)

This subject will be on the next council agenda, 8/10/09. Something to be strongly considered.