After the Independence City Council unanimously passed the 2020-21 fiscal year budget, which went through massive reconstruction over the past three months amid the pandemic, City Manager Zach Walker promised regular updates on how it’s holding up.
For three outgoing council members – two who lost re-election bids and another who decided not to run – passing the $311.8 million budget Monday was their final act on the council. New Council Members Brice Stewart, Mike Steinmeyer and Dan Hobart joined the council Monday, having won in the June 2 election. It also was the council’s first meeting back in City Hall after three months of remote meetings.
Stewart unseated two-term representative Curt Dougherty; Hobart replaces Tom Van Camp, who lost in February’s primary; Steinmeyer succeeds Scott Roberson, who decided not to run.
The total for budget, which takes effect July 1, is, $311.89 million, which is $5.09 million less than 2019-20, as pandemic restrictions severely hampered sales tax revenues and project revenues. While it is balanced as required, Walker said, "revenues ebb and flow," and he said city staff will make adjustments as needed and update council members at the monthly audit and finance committee meetings and full council meetings.
Unlike when the city first unveiled the budget last month, it includes funding for city bus routes for a year, thanks to CARES Act money through the Kansas City Area Transit Authority. Departments such as Public Works and Parks and Recreation and Tourism scaled back planned projects, with few exceptions, to necessary upkeep and maintenance.
As he departed the council, Roberson said he was grateful for the trust citizens placed in him, and while he didn’t get to see all the changes he hoped to see, "disappointments are a part of life."
"We are not here for ourselves but for the common good," Roberson said, and decisions by the council affect future citizens.
Dougherty and Van Camp had been proponents of a couple expensive Independence Power & Light projects in recent years – the solar farm expansion and tearing down the old Missouri City power plant – that drew at least enough interest to be part of an ongoing federal investigation.
Dougherty said he couldn’t help but notice improvements around the city over the past eight years and that he was confident he’d left the city better than before. Van Camp said he appreciated the time he’d served, and after losing in February’s primary, he’d said he was proud of the council’s accomplishments.
Council Member John Perkins, who was unopposed for re-election to represent the northwest portion of the city, said he has enjoyed working with the "outstanding leadership" from several citizens in his district. He told his new colleagues he would always be available "to bounce ideas off each other."
Stewart thanked his family for supporting him over several county and city candidacy bids the past six years and said he wanted to do his part "to help bring that trust back" for the council.
Steinmeyer said his grown children pushed him to run – that "You need to do something or shut up" – and he appreciated the grass-roots effort in his campaign.
"You (voters) sent a message that you want to see the standard raised in word and deed," he said.
Hobart said he’ll take his responsibility to work for the citizens and people who work in the city seriously.
"I’ll do my best, and I’m sure I’ll hear about it if I don’t," he said, "which is good."