The Lawrence Common Council approved the 2022 city budget Oct. 25 with a 7-2 vote, leaving Democrat council members happy and Mayor Steve Collier, a Republican, disappointed. The two dissenting votes were Republicans Tom Shevlot and Lauren Russel.
The budget cut more than $5 million from the originally proposed $27 million budget. The cuts eliminated $3.6 million proposed to be spent from the city’s $9.1 million operating revenue, and roughly $2 million from Collier’s administrative budget, which can be used for operational expenses.
Collier said the $3.6 million were planned to be used for park-related projects, such as paving the parking lots at Community Park and adding a pickleball court.
A press release from the Lawrence Democratic Caucus stated the council majority – consisting of seven Democrat members – wanted to pass a “common sense” budget.
““The number one goal shared among my colleagues on the council was to be good stewards of the taxpayer dollar provided by the citizens of Lawrence,” stated at-large council member Shawn Denney, chair of the council’s finance committee. “That is the top priority of this legislative body and what we were all elected to do. The fiscal responsibility of how this city is run rests on our shoulders and each of us take that responsibility very seriously.”
Collier said that the ideal amount for an operating revenue is to be approximately 20 percent of the city’s budget, which would mean the ideal amount for Lawrence’s operating revenue would be at least $5 million. Collier said even if the city spent the $3.6 million on the park projects, the operating revenue would still be nearly 30 percent of the budget.
Besides cutting the park projects and administrative budget, the council also removed a 5 percent pay increase for all employees from the city budget and recommended using American Rescue Plan dollars to cover a 5 percent bonus for all employees. However, Collier said he doubts that will be approved, because ARP dollars have strict requirements on how they’re spent.
“The suggestion to use ARP to fund a one-time 5 percent bonus for all employees will not be approved,” Collier said. “We may be able to provide this for most public safety employees, but certainly not for all. All this budget really proves is how out of touch the Democratic Caucus is with how a city works. The political nature of referencing themselves as the ‘Democratic Caucus’ versus the common council is very disturbing.”