By Natasha Vyhovsky
The Shawnee city council last week approved a proposed 2018 budget includes funding for an expansion of city staff.
The total budget authority for next year is estimated to be $113,540,083, about $30,000 more than the estimated expenditures for this year.
Included in the budget are plans to add a number of city positions, including a finance generalist and and a human resources generalist, each set at about $90,000.
Some residents and councilmembers have been hesitant to accept the new budget proposals, especially considering the tax increase of last year.
Shawnee resident Ray Erlichman said he has reservations about the necessity of the new positions in lieu of others he said would be more valuable. With approximately 2,800 facilities that require fire inspection, Erlichman suggests that be where the new salaries are spent.
“Personally, I would rather see another fire inspector hired than another human resources person at this point, or somebody in finance or IT,” Erlichman said. “We still have some trucks going out of fire station 71 with three-man crews, which is the bare minimum by the National Fire Code. I think we need to change what type of positions we’re going to hire this coming year.”
Councilmember Dan Pflumm echoed this sentiment, believing positions could be added in “areas that might help us out better.”
The budget also allocates $179,000 to the fiber build out to bring faster internet speeds to the community.
Councilmember Eric Jenkins, who was not in favor of the proposed budget, said the council needs to analyze the payback potential of such a program before investing the funds.
“The fiber buildout may be a great deal. Maybe it’s a good idea; maybe it’s not. Some discussion about a 20 year payback to break even on this when you’ve got changing technology that’s moving so fast you can’t even keep up with it,” Jenkins said.
Despite lengthy discussions by the committee and a fair share of dissent, Vaught ultimately holds that the budget approval will continue to move Shawnee in the right direction projected by the necessary 2017 mill levy increase.
“We did raise taxes last year, and we’re building a fire station, we’re improving city services, we’re improving our infrastructure. We’re in the best shape we’ve been in a long time,” Vaught said. “We’re doing great. I’m excited – this is a great budget. We’re getting things done, we got our priorities in line, and we’re responding to what the people want, and I think it’s fantastic.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the 2018 budget would include a small property tax increase. The mill levy will remain at 26.611 for 2018.