Overland Park mayoral candidates on the issues: The city’s budget

Overland Park mental health

Overland Park Wards mayoral candidates discuss where they would like to increase and reduce funding in the Overland Park city budget. Filed image.

In August, we asked our readers about the issues you wanted to hear the candidates running for Overland Park Mayor address.

Based on your feedback, we developed a five-item questionnaire touching on the most important issues to the citizens of Overland Park.

Each day this week, we will publish the candidates’ responses to one of five questions. Today, we are publishing candidates’ responses to the following question:

What’s one area of the Overland Park city budget where you would support reducing funding, and what’s one area where you would support increasing funding? Why?

Below are the answers the Post received from the candidates on the issue:

Mike Czinege

Most importantly, I would not have supported the 10% increase in the city budget. Most of the requested increase is in the Public Safety line for additional law enforcement and mental health resources. I am in favor of adding those resources. They should be classified as essential services, and not made contingent on an increase in the budget. However, to better understand the increases in the budget, if you set aside for a moment the entire Public Safety line from the budget, the remaining budget is still up 8.9% over 2021 estimated and 31% over 2020 actuals. The budget has increased too much over a 2-year period.

I would suggest examining and/or reducing the following line items:

  • Finance & Administration up 22% ($4.8M over 2 years)
  • Arboretum up 96% ($0.7M over 2 years) *Outsource this operation
  • Community Centers up 102% ($1.0M over 2 years)
  • Contingency ($3.0M) There should be no contingency in a budget that is up 31% in 2 years after removing Public Safety.

I would support increasing funding for Public Works to replace chip seal with an alternative resurfacing technology that is more acceptable to the OP residents. Additionally, there is a backlog of 150 lane miles that can no longer be resurfaced. These roads need to be reconstructed at an estimated cost of over $225M. The council needs to determine how to begin reducing this backlog faster than more lane miles of neglected roads are added to it.

Curt Skoog

Overland Park residents expect high quality city services and they are delivered with a very lean staff. My focus has been and will continue to be in reducing costs through increasing operational efficiency. By investing in new technologies and infrastructure you reduce maintenance and operational costs. This year we approved the Streetlight Conversion Project, which will update our street lighting from high pressure sodium to LEDs. This change will save taxpayers $4 million over 10 years.

Residential street maintenance has been an area where the city has been receiving significant feedback. This year I led the council in creating the Infrastructure Advisory Group to look at methods the city can use to move aways from its use of chip seal. Alternatives to chip seal will likely cost around $20 million a year so, with community input, the advisory group will look at ways to transition and fund those increased expenditures.

On Thursday, we will publish the candidates’ responses to the following question:

The John Albers case has raised significant issues about transparency and forthrightness from Overland Park officials. What does the city need to do to address this issue and rebuild trust between the city and residents?