Prairie Village mayor candidates on the issues: Keeping our roads in good condition

Today we begin our week-long series featuring the Prairie Village mayor candidates’ answers to questions about the issues most important to readers. The first question on our six item questionnaire for the candidates was:

A recent analysis by Public Works shows that recommended street repairs in Prairie Village would cost $4 million a year. The current city budget allocates an average of $1 million a year over the next three years. What steps should Prairie Village take to fill the budget shortfall and keep our streets from deteriorating? (To see the Public Works analysis, click here).

Mayor Ron Shaffer:

The Prairie Village 2011 budget has allocated over $4.5 million dollars toward work on our streets, sidewalks, curbs and ramps.

Mayor Ron Shaffer
Mayor Ron Shaffer

Prairie Village citizens have come to enjoy and have always valued good street conditions year-round. In the recent analysis report, the current condition of our streets, sidewalks, curbs and ramps was rated as good. Along with the city council and staff, I continue to be committed to keeping our streets in good condition. We will continue to explore new products, innovations and technologies that could result in new ways to extend the life of our infrastructure. Along with the city council and staff, I want to examine all opportunities and find ways to be good stewards of the taxpayer’s money.

Projections for 2012 and beyond indicate we will need to take a hard look at the challenges of reduced funding that lies ahead. We must balance any future reductions in spending while maintaining street improvement projects and other city services at accustomed levels. I am looking forward to leading our city council and staff in discussions on the 2012 budget. During these sessions, we will set our city’s goals for the 2012 fiscal year while projecting ahead for future budgets.

City Councilman Michael Kelly:

This is an ongoing problem that we need to address. Just like large home maintenance projects, we need to prioritize the projects, budget, and save accordingly for the long-term.

Councilman Michael Kelly
Michael Kelly

Simply quadrupling our current budget from $1 million to $4 million would push our city to the verge of bankruptcy. To outright cover the cost of the increase the city would need to raise the mill levy by 6 to 10 mills (1 mill is roughly equivalent to $282,000). Obviously, this would have a tremendously negative impact on every homeowner and would be especially hard for our seniors and those on fixed incomes.

The fact that the current administration “forgot” to apply for the 2009 Federal Stimulus cost Prairie Village between $800K and $1.2 million. Additionally, the $22 million that the current administration gave away to a private developer, along with the lack of long-term planning, will quickly result in higher property taxes for all of us.

As a city, we have been depleting our reserve funds at a rate close to 10 percent per year. The vast majority of these reserve funds are going to operational expenses, such as light bills. Given our difficult economic times, we need to adopt a policy that allocates the reserve funds to capital improvement projects, such as roads. These are projects that directly add value to our city. This policy could be reassessed when the economy improves.

The mayor has had 12 years to address these issues. We must address the report as a warning and adopt a new reserve policy for the short term, and use the report as a measure for setting our priorities for the long term.

Tomorrow, we’ll post the candidates’ responses to question two:

In September, the city council passed two Community Improvement Districts, raising taxes at Corinth Square and the Village Shops by 1 percent to fund major redevelopments at the centers. Do you support the CIDs? If not, what would you have done to spur investment to renovate the centers? As mayor, what will you do to keep the developer, LANE 4, accountable for use of taxpayer money?