‘We will suffer’: Many local organizations in fear over KC’s $70 million budget shortfall

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — COVID-19 hasn’t been kind in many ways, including to the budgets of municipalities across the metro.

Kansas City is forced to fill a $70 million shortfall, which will affect many organizations supported by the city. Officials call this an unprecedented time with budget challenges never before seen or will see in our lifetime.

With budget cuts to fill a $70 million shortfall, organizations that depend on the city to stay afloat are afraid of sinking.

“We will suffer,” said Carmeletta Williams, the executive director of The Black Archives of Mid-America. 

She said her organization gets 40% of its money from the city, and a cut will mean changes. Exactly what changes, have yet to be determined.

“We have a skeleton staff,” Williams said. “We are opening a coffee shop and gift shop, so hopefully we can get revenue streams from there.”

Williams calls the the Black Archives the cornerstone of Kansas City. It houses pictures, letters and documents as well as the home of an enslaved woman from Trenton, Missouri, The Women’s Professional Basketball Hall of Fame and The Lynching Museum.

“We keep their legacies alive, we tell their stories,” Williams said.

Mayor Quinton Lucas understands Williams concern.

“We all get that this is a moment of sacrifice,” he said. “It’s a tough moment for everyone in Kansas City including Kansas City government.”

A big hit to sales taxes is the biggest reason the city is in trouble. Lucas said the budget was constructed to protect essential city services.

Cuts to things like KCPD and transportation will not affect personnel nor equipment.

“What you will find is innovative ways to changing the ways we fund services. Novel ways to cut costs and increase revenues,” said Kansas City Manager Brian Platt, who has been in is position just over three months.

One of those ways in converting street lights to LED. The city spends $13 million on energy bills and maintenance and this change will cut that cost in half.

Between savings initiatives, budget cuts and reorganization, the city found $58 million. The rest of the money, $12 million was taken from the city’s savings account, or rainy day fund as Platt called it.

“It’s a rainy day yeah, but we don’t have a lot of reserves for any future rainy days and this rainy day could last quite a while,” Platt said.

But the budget is not a slash-fest, The city is spending more money in some areas. It is hiring an equity officer, transportation director, giving more money to the Kansas City Fire Department, expanded snow removal operations and spending $20 million for street resurfacing.

“We tried to balance out the best we can,” Lucas said.”We know there’s some pain but we’re proud of the fact that with no layoffs were just zeroing it out and not filling positions. This is a pretty good balance for our community.”

To see more information about KCMO’s budget, see below.

There are three opportunities for public comment before the budget is voted on March 25.

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