City Leaders Look To Trim Budget

By: Suzie Gilbert Email
By: Suzie Gilbert Email

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Some police operations and carry-over comp time are among ideas Topeka's Interim City Manager put on the chopping block. Pam Simecka and Council Members begin budget talks Tuesday (7/10).

Simecka says her concept is to try to get the organization back to a manageable level of service. She says the problem is, the City has cut staff and cut resources, but it really hasn't cut services to the citizens.

Simecka compiled nearly two dozen cost cutting measures, from selling the city's parking garages,. to outsourcing Animal Control operations. Simecka says they're things that don't contribute to the City's core functions, things like pulling Topeka Police off parade and event control by using more volunteers, or not sending officers to noise disturbances without formal complaints, vehicle accidents on private property, and vehicle break-ins more than 24 hours after they happen.

"Citizens would be able to go on our website, fill out a form, or a report, then the Police Department could work on it from that point," Simecka told 13 News Monday.

Simecka also suggests the city make fewer free responses to false alarms, and require prepaid gasoline, to cut down on drive-offs.

"They felt some of those thing would save them time, get them back on patrol, get them back dealing with crime, rather than dealing with requirements," Simecka said.

Simecka also says she's not a fan of indefinitely stockpiling vacation and comp time, that employees often cash in at a much higher rate than it was earned.

"It can be fairly expensive for the City. We've had some retirements recently that have been fairly large payouts," Simecka said.

An item not on her list, but one that Council Members could bring up, is privatizing the Topeka Zoo, which costs the city more than $2-million a year.

Zoo Director Brendan Wiley says it hasn't been formally discussed since a 2009 accreditation report. He says the city could retain ownership of the zoo's assets, but lower its costs by using a private company for day-to-day operations.

Simecka says privatization most likely won't come up this budget year. Wiley says it's worth a look.

"What I would be for is just being as smart as we can be, and until we really get in and get a look at the issue, I don't think anyone can answer what the best model is for this zoo today," Wiley said,

Simecka also suggested city employees work four 10-hour days, and have Fridays off to save money.

A look at the proposed city budget is posted now at Topeka.org.


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