Kansas City Council approves $1.73B budget focusing on public safety, helping tenants

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After several public hearings, Kansas City Council has approved a $1.73 billion budget.  

“Public safety is going to be our largest expense. The police department is probably our largest, the fire department comes next,” Mayor Quinton Lucas said. “We have a lot of bonds and a lot of debt, we’re still paying off the Power and Light district and we’re still paying on the convention hotel.” 

The mayor says this budget will also mean better roads. 

“You have a budget with $20 million per year more in road resurfacing, and addressing potholes,” Lucas said. “We’ve heard from our public, they want to make sure that we’re fixing up the roads in the city.” 

The pandemic reduced the city’s revenue. There is $195 million on the way from the American Rescue Plan and more than $17 million expected from the new fire capital sales tax. Councilman Brandon Ellington explained why he voted no on the budget. 

“When you look at a budget you need to look at the sustainability of the budget and what we’re actually funding in that budget,” Ellington said. “Citizen services were technically defunded across the board whether it’s our museums or youth programs or the unequalness of public safety.” 

This budget also sets aside close to a million dollars for the Office of the Tenant Advocate. Jenay Manley, City Hall liaison with KC Tenants says the group has been pushing for this office to be fully funded after city officials reduced funding down to $100,000.  

“That is a reflection on the power that tenants have built through the budget process we continued to name our demand which was fully fund the office of the tenant advocate,” Manley said. 

The budget gives near full funding to the office of the tenant advocate to hire full time employees to help tenants understand their rights as renters. 

“This is about accountability but obviously we have further to go and that’s affordability,” Manley said. 

After a push from KC tenants, the new city budget gives near full funding to the office of the tenant advocate to hire full time employees to help tenants understand their rights as renters. 

“This will help gain power for tenants to know what their rights are and how to implement them. That includes collective bargaining making sure homes are safe, healthy, and affordable making sure that landlords are not illegally evicting tenants.” 

Outside of this budget, Lucas said he hopes to explore ways to use some of the funding from the American Rescue Plan to continue to address housing concerns. 

“I think we need to continue to work on fully funding our Housing Trust Fund to make sure we can establish more opportunities for affordable housing for places that people can live and more transitional housing,” Lucas said. 

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