Concerns with how to pay for failing pipeline repairs lead 2 on Shawnee council to vote against 2020 budget

Questions about how to fund millions in needed stormwater repair prompted two Shawnee councilmembers to vote against the 2020 budget.

Shawnee city leaders earlier this week passed a budget for 2020, but not without some discord from councilmembers who said they favor of a more aggressive approach to tackle the city’s stormwater repair needs.

Shawnee will maintain its mill levy of 26.617. The total budget for the city in 2020 is set at $125,088,525.

The Shawnee city council on Monday voted 6-2 to pass a 2020 budget. Councilmen Eric Jenkins and Mike Kemmling voted in dissent.

Councilman Eric Jenkins

The two councilmen, both representing Ward 2, had proposed last month that the city cut spending by 3 percent across all city departments, and halt new spending out of the general fund on parks and recreation, until the city’s stormwater pipes were in “adequate” condition. After a lengthy debate, their fellow councilmembers ultimately rejected their proposal.

Before the council vote, Jenkins cited his failed proposal as one reason for voting against the 2020 budget.

“I don’t feel like this budget recognizes the priorities that we should be looking at,” he said. “I think we’ve discussed those priorities on this council (at) council committee meetings and some other meetings. I feel like we need to elevate in priority our pipes program, and I think that was not really considered effectively by this council, so I’d have a hard time supporting this budget.”

No other member of the public spoke before the council passed the 2020 budget.

The council also unanimously approved a revised 2019 budget, with no discussion or public comment.

The conflict is part of city leaders’ ongoing debate in the fallout of a failed ballot issue in May that would have increased property taxes to fund a community center for the city. The debate ultimately shows the council is at odds over public works needs versus parks and recreation services, which Jenkins considers to be a want when juxtaposed with failing pipelines.

Councilman Matt Zimmerman

Councilmember Matt Zimmerman has spoken up twice in recent council meetings in support of parks and recreation, during which he voiced his adamant support for the department’s services as needs that improve the quality of life for Shawnee residents. As such, he expressed concerns with reducing any funding for parks and recreation.

Jenkins responded that he “resented” Zimmerman’s comments, stating that his plan would have only cut funding from parks and recreation out of the general fund and not through any of the department’s other funds.

Some notable items from the budget include:

  • A big chunk of expenditures go toward covering the costs of public safety vehicle replacement: $110,000 for fire vehicles, and $1.2 million for other public safety equipment, vehicle and personnel needs, including the addition of three fire administrative positions and two police department positions.
  • $4 million for park improvements at 55th and Belmont Park
  • $480,000 is dedicated to Shawnee Town work
  • $109,000 is budgeted for Nieman Road stormwater work