KNSS Radio>Audio & Video on Demand>>ISSUES 2017 01/29/17

ISSUES 2017 01/29/17

Jan 26, 2017|

Wichita City Manager Robert Layton discusses the city budget, water and sewer, infrastructure, police body cams, and more

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

This is issues Tony seventeen I'm Steve Macintosh and our guest is Wichita city manager Robert Leighton welcomed is usually seventeen thank you Steve it's been awhile since we talked probably last year if they had this. I mean this is a good opportunity to hear what's going on net debt. City Hall as we begin a new year we. Hold national elections every four years does he election of a new president have much impact or any at all. On what's going on a local government. Well it's still a little too early to tell and one of the things that was. I think promising from. The president's. Campaigning in some of his comments after he was elected. Was commitment to infrastructure and we know that that's one of the major issues in our community in terms of differed. I mean as an investment in infrastructure is something our counsel's been focused on so there's a federal system so helpless. Move forward that would be great news. We're a little worried about his most recent announcement on Sanctuary Cities only and that their lives have been some sites that have erroneously listed us as a Sanctuary City and it's seems that there may be some significant financial consequences for cities that are deemed that this is a good opportunity for me. To ask something kind of what the heck is a Sanctuary City we'll based not really sure I know right at it it's basically as I understand it. A designation is given to a jurisdiction. A community that. Does not cooperate in terms of turning over illegal immigrants that are in the jail system overturn them over to ice agents. And the third thing about what she does we don't even have a jail great Sedgwick county controls a jail so there's room. It when I say were erroneously erroneously. Designated Sanctuary Cities because these leaders and read the circumstances would never exist for us to have it and will that have an impact on our city government and other city governments. Well. That's again again good question and probably a little too early to tell. Then we'd we do not receive a lot of funding. At least on a formula basis from the stage and so as it wrestles with its budget issues. There aren't and I'm sure there will be a lot of financial consequences for awesome I'm much more worried about what will happen to our educational system. Because that's an important driver for economic development and so we wanna see strong school's board or zuni but is there any reason or do you have does a city have a lobbyist or someone who. Is into peak is during the session it to looking up for our interest or is it necessary and no we do agree it is necessary. Because are all there'll auditioning interact going to at their Lotta issues are not financial bug. Impact us from operating standpoint and so we do have someone who. Monitors legislation. And one of the things that for instance they're talking about two days. Blight. And what can be done to help reduce blight and larger urban areas in the state. Yet interviewed the vice mayor we could to go on on this very subject of lightened and it was it was interest in. It's not defined is just a guy with a two junk car next door I mean. And divine defined like Forrest if you will Willis in the united we holder right but it it really has to do with the condition of property and that could be the bill house itself or the structure itself it could be. And as you said good. And car or other debris that's in the yard. It's all about really having safe housing and having the neighborhood those a lot higher quality and what we file and I think the frustration we've had not been able to work with the state. To come up with a common. Acceptance of all of a bill. Or common version of the bill. Is that. It's really unfair to the neighbors that are around a property there was one that was in front of the city council for demolition and gotten so bad that we. Counsel was asked to take action to demolish a property. I think it have been that way for over ten years in the neighbors were in the music guardians. Pleading with the council takes some action because of the impact it was having on the rest of their properties. Have you ever gone to legislature. Do yourself to over impotent issues have been up a few times. Two guns with the I think are most effective spokespersons error are the mayor and City Council members. Ends and they go up frequently. What are the most important issue you're dealing with right now. In our local government. Well probably the one that's forefront for me is. I think an effort that we started last year and it's funny that you ask for the legislature because one thing legislature didn't consider and adopt in 2016 was Leah. Property tax limit. And it's an actual lid and you'll have impact on the way that we finance our operations and will be limited and our ability to fund parks recreation and other quality of life services as Wall Street improvements. Because there won't it would take voter approval to increase taxes. Beyond. Consumer Price Index. Or the rate of inflation going forward so anyway it in response to that we decided to do zero based service review. And it sounds like kind of a bureaucratic administrative. Function but it really isn't it what it does is takes our organization down to zero. And it says what is it that we should be doing and her order to meet the basic needs of our citizens and our community. And then once we define what those needs are. What are we doing today that it distracts us from that and takes resources away from us so we're really talking about core mission. I would notebook on my desk now the first round of reservist reviews. And it's one of the thicker and notebooks I've had its there's a lot of thought that's going into this process I here's here's one for you are you getting along with folks cross street. Central avenue north and recounting all I'm sorry at a human Fed's. The other day in court. You know from a staff standpoint nothing's changed. Michael schools and I have a got a good relationship it's that's probably a better question for the elected officials. Talk about the budget process. Where are we right now well led the word is that it's service review is the first step of our budget process we started this process two months earlier than we normally do so that we can have a pretty serious discussion. And I at some point wanna take this out to the community after we determine what we we think. The leaner organization should look like we wanted to talk to our citizens in flight out if it's in alignment with what their expectations are. Gallons have been cents a locate it and took it and continue on in that don't. What is your timeline you have a final budget to one and all districts and right of the by the middle of August the budget needs to be adopted by the council also will. Probably some time in mid to late spring or start talking our residents and having some listening sessions. How long's it been since the city Wichita raise property taxes what was the tax. Mitt mill rate has none of them already is not increase for over twenty years. Peso didn't depict. Actually it's the devaluation of the property then that camera and you see their new construction or the valuation of property and more were limited under the new state laws the increase in the valuation of existing property okay we're allowed to take advantage of any new growth. But as you know our rate of growth has been pretty subdued or last several years and you're coming you know were property tax. Revenue is still to and I think still showing some. Lag. To the rest of the economy with instant loss to do with. Then what's going on with building and potential for the run right yes a more successful we are in making it easier for businesses to expand or to build here than the better this girl. What are the other sources of revenue for the city wheel sales taxes and other a big one. And portion of that sales tax goes for highway improvements and a street improvements and the other portion goes for property tax reduction. Tell me not to water and sewer I mean. And little windfall. We're refer streets and about them intent that was a water system is in good shape now. Well not yet there's 12100 year old pipes. I could not quite well today. And that would be beckoned Roman times I know you can relate to as well I'd like animal younger Steve. Though. I am glad you brought that up because we're doing something that is who really leading edge in their only a few other cities in the country either doing this and we or have we have a review team that. We've put together. A public private partnership to do a full inventory air or water and sewer system. And today and develop funding alternatives for moving forward and putting that system is in its best condition. And we know this is not an overnight issue this is actually a legacy issue that if we can get the system right. That over the next twenty or thirty years we think we can get to a point where we have. Fully maintained system and one day it is cute today it'll take a lot less to operate below us dollars to operate in as we go forward. So we'll have something to the council probably in the next sixty days with a preliminary thoughts from that team and whether or not a public private partnership makes senses we go forward. You know I've talked about this before and knowing that in the importance of food. Something that we take for granted of course. With the recent publicity out of Flint, Michigan may be not so much but we take for granted our water supply and yet there it could be a very big problem here in the in the years ahead. For a lot of cities right there and guess Flint it is was a water condition issue right in that a water quality. For us is more than the actual. Amount of water the volume that's available and won't council has taken. Some actions in the last two years to help us so that we can be more drought resistant. A long term big drought a five year drought six year drought would be you know a dust bowl drought. Is still wouldn't were present problems for us but right now who I think right now we're in a better position. Then most communities in Kansas in that regard. And in fact we've been working with the federal agencies. In terms of coming up with what they considered to be a pilot project for crime. Water availability going forward when that they like other cities around the country to duplicate. This is just my imagination and compare notes with other people they say that the water that comes on which to attempt is about as good water as you care. Anywhere in the country I've heard that might. My son's been all over the world in the old days as which dollars best right yeah we we'd normally we've not received an award for best water United States but we've been in the top ten before and actually do FO Scott contests they didn't they do all right and does not my imagination is pretty good water it is nothing. Now are you mandated by law to operate a balanced budget for the city yes we are okay right and balanced budget as our counsels to find it is not to utilized. Resources or reserves of him at all. And so we. Our revenues and expenditures aftermath to you gonna have you and have a reserve every year. We do it we have a reserve we've added slightly to it over through the recession. And that was a concern of the rating agencies the bond rating agencies that. We maintain. Enough reserve or rainy day fund so to speak in case of natural disasters and other reasons plus I need. Some reserves just be able to make payroll for the periods of time where we don't have significant revenues coming up but how much is that companies and the reserve is about. In the general fund is about 10% of our total budget so that's a little under twenty million dollars toe to invent monies does it draw interest that it does it does draw interest and than my past but cycle but I don't know about a whole not a whole lot those views because I. You know we have to keep our money safe and we're now allowed to put in any kind of risky investments okay. So if I came over some investment for the city the prize would ignore it and I probably would not go for your real estate deal yeah yeah. Well you're listening to issues Tony seventeen on the undercount radio station as a guest is Wichita city manager Robert Lleyton and with us a little bit about it. Pay for city employees to receive regular increases and he handled it. Well during the recession we had a period time where they receive no increases and in fact you may remember that we took furloughs. Furlough days and so we do a lot what what are. Taxpayers are doing. So many businesses were struggling during that period as we've come under the recession. Him merits and in retirement fund or do you ever we do we have to recover funds one is a public safety funded ones for the rest of our employees and I'm really proud to say that our fund is much healthier then the State's pension fund. And that's because of policies were put in place by city council's years ago. We have actuary reports. That evaluate financial health of our system every year. And at their recommendation. Under city ordinance must be followed. For the following year in the funding of pension systems so. We have right now about. Ninety to 93% of our outstanding obligations fully funded and which is almost unheard of those both health insurance you offer. I'm just. You know try to get an idea whether I wanna apply for a job. A history I doubt it right and that's I up until now I have in black balled candidates but yeah I will continue to say I'm going to be like Youkilis drew closely now. Our health insurance is. We have options deceased were known for having pretty rich systems for all a long period of time and I think back in the eighties early ninety's. It's. City employees around the country were getting smaller. Increases in wages and so they were receiving higher increases in benefits. At that time I think we got a lot of whack in terms of what our total benefits for. And those who we've been doing looking at ways photo sharing costs with our employees. Trying to encourage you. More wellness programs more or Wallace efforts and we've moved to obviously a lot more outpatient care. About first responders Furman where police and firefighters. It is a city finding good applicants I probably should as police chief Ramsey of and and the fire chief but. What are you seeing there as far as applicants from we are you receiving good applications that's really not been an issue and our fire department. And in the police department was for a period of time. But like so many things that have happened since chief Ramsey got here Hugh. Has been able to turn that situation around and you are candidate pool. We had before recruit class this year which is the first time in several years. And he's got. Various strategies but he's been a lot more aggressive in terms are reached to give people endure class. No we had 200% on the police body camps now yes we are. Is indeed creating any problems for you know it does that account of the county national prosecuting crime now. Gathering evidence can be a little more costly. Well isn't because all of the video upgrades its actually. Been wonderful from a city perspective the number of complaints about. Officer. Arrests. And office or conduct are substantially down real risks yes and our police officers I think are really. Pleased with the impact of the camera is it helps them as they write up their cases as well and I think it's been a win win for community. Now is regard too it complaints. From the public does it police departments and have a great big bowl of complacency. They have a amused this is pretty regular thing or does it to mean you're telling me that. The money him Tuesday and now right right it's not only say that we have a significant volume but what we did have is who have been significantly reduced. Also about streets and infrastructure improvement and lows and some pretty pretty rugged streets up on the north side of my neighbors and what's going on it I'm sure those streets certainly counties do you do it enough stuff. Actually. We have been fourteen ever since I got here we are working on trying to improve the our street condition and I'll tell you I. I attend a lot of neighborhood association meetings and that is one of them if not the top issue during our discussions. Whenever I'm out at one of those means. We started when I were it was pure when I arrived we were spending four million dollars for contractual streaming as plus we were doing with our crews. We're now at eight million that will go up to ten million annually in 2000. And nineteen I believe and then 2020 will be at eleven million. And then on top of that hey you and you mentioned this a little bit beginning to show. The City Council took half of the proceeds from the sale of the Hyatt. And it's ten million dollars and put that into residential street maintenance and we've got a pretty sophisticated program on how those dollars are to be spent now just a ten million but the annual money as well and I think. Residents are really gonna start to see an improvement in there. And the condition of their streets. And a result of that now the river quarter construction moving right along and a couple of projects. Yes and we're really excited about the potential for. Cord or. You know from the mayor that that's one of his problem issue he let he loves a cornered and he likes to talk about it. He does and so you probably don't need to hear anymore for me the other day. We we have developed a great partnership with the Department of Commerce the state Department of Commerce. And the secretary especially and they have encouraged us as we move forward. To to think big and dream big on this and were doing that. When you're gonna see. Announcement I think soon about the of receiving some state money of the star bond money actually. To be able to make some improvements to the baseball stadium which a lot of people have been talking about. And then by the end of 2017. I've promised to bring something forward for public discussion. The futures century to. And we have done a lot of work studying on number of alternatives. And one more piece of that that needs to be looked at and that is the possibility of a public private partnership to have a constructed. Which could be very beneficial city Los angeles' them. Doing. Is probably moving that direction and we really working closely with them to up. Talk about that as an alternative for our system can you mention how much many think my beast it's been on the baseball stadium and in the renovation or bulldozing it and building a new one well you know what. People don't realize is the bones of that stadium are not very sound in so. It enough my first thought going into it is to reduce the significant remodel in try to keep some of historic charm so to speak. I'm not sure how far feasible that is especially with the grandstand and it's not a very good condition. Anyone who goes out their knows that we put seat backs on some bench seating last year. We did not put the tie proceed we wanted to because as we started to drill the concrete wouldn't hold the bolts. And so via us so we're it's going to be very difficult I think. To preserve the the main grandstand. But what Iran's. It will have to hire some a good consulting team to come in. Do an assessment and then helpless booked through alternatives so could be anywhere from 25 eighths to forty million. If we do it right. What are your thoughts on the state of the local economy. I'm about as bullish on the economy as I have been in the eight years and I've been in Wichita and I could talk to more more business owners. That are expanding their operations in Wichita. We're seeing some great strength with spirit and with. Textron aviation we're seeing of growth and our IT. Industries. That uphold Greg initiative bug a growing but additional clusters here he is showing some success so. I hear a lot of optimism about where we're headed. And you exciting new project you'd like share with us this morning. You know why it's funny this is more. I didn't really working on projects that are very sexy right now. You've talked about some of the ones that are kind of exciting though along the riverfront moved. Project we were and to keep Cargill here in their recent. Announcement about what that building look like that's that's really exciting. But most of what you're gonna see come out of my office is going to be you mean more bread and butter issues which again I think I've heard residents. That's where they want our attention to be right now. What do we do to provide them those basic services in the cost effective way and it sounds a little boring but it's I I think it's exciting work what's a what is the biggest challenges in your job. Other than dealing with media. You know actually we have great people here. And you know with these kids someday we can talk about the role of the media and keeping us doing the right thing day in day out because that is important. But I elm. You know I don't know my challenge is probably mcsame is anyone that's involved in running a business and their personnel issues you have to deal with. I'm real excited who have that we're right now working. Employee development program that will. Actually empower employees to make decisions in the field drive decision making down the farthest from the organization can. We've talked a lot about what our vision is and our mission as an organization and it's. Is this energizing for me to see how excited are employees are about that and about customer service service and initiative we started few years ago called raving fans. I'm hoping of people that are doing business with the now have noticed a much friendlier approach to art to what we're doing and again those are some of the things that well that sounds very much like up business approach I mean people talk about that but when you get down to the personnel how the hell they do their jobs. That's what it really means that business model right I've I want employees that every day come to work you know that they have an important purpose in the community. And that the people that they're working for value work they're doing and they value those customers and I. Really think they were getting it right here I'm getting a lot of emails from our residents that are committing our employees. Individually for the work that you're doing. Still getting in your daily run. Am I am they were gonna call that a jog now it's. Yeah I'm a little lower I sec I just read it exactly. That it's important to it to keep your mind cleared and he gets it done every day Dave about I do I have a little streak going Syria Lebanon and I've got one just you know I wanted it's that yeah. There it. Yes that does these I had collectors go down would jog down you know yes there this and as always thanks for spending some time is. Always learn something good to be addressing when I talked to the city manager we will thank you get for being with us this morning against Wichita city manager Robert Leighton. And that's all for this edition of issues Tony seventeen. We'll be back next week thank you for listening I'm Steve Macintosh.