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Smart with the Money

Mayor Funkhouser believes that you can’t take care of the people without taking care of the money.  If you don’t take care of the money, pain and misery will surely follow. Given this principle, after his election win in 2007, he immediately stared working on taking care of the money.  And he’s been focused on it ever since.  The payoff has been worth it.  Despite the worst recession since the Great Depression, the city’s finances are in better shape than they’ve been in the last 10-years.


The Problem:

When Mark Funkhouser was elected Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, he inherited a city government on the brink of financial collapse.

  • Its annual budget was a shell game of deferred costs and overestimated revenues.
  • The previous administration had tripled the debt from $500 million to more than $1.5 billion.
  • The abuse of tax incentives like TIF for developers had undermined the city’s ability to spend a sufficient amount on basic services, like street repair and police protection.
  • Habitual deferred maintenance led to $13 billion in infrastructure needs ranging from leaking sewer pipes to crumbling sidewalks.
  • The credit rating agencies noticed all of this and were threatening to downgrade the city’s bond rating.

The Solution:

Within weeks of his election, Mayor Funkhouser began to change the city’s approach to its finances.

  • Each ensuing budget reported expenses and revenues more accurately, leading to the most structurally balanced budget in decades.
  • Over three years, the city eliminated more than 500 positions within city government forcing efficiencies while maintaining services.
  • Over that same time, there has been no significant addition to the debt load.
  • The Mayor was able to steer the City Council to pass a long needed economic development and incentive policy to bring order and strategy to the use of TIF and tax abatements. That policy was complemented by debt and investment policies.
  • The city has begun to grapple with its deferred maintenance and capital improvements backlog.  The city successfully negotiated a model agreement with the EPA on a required upgrade to the city’s waste water system that allowed the city to finance the plan over 25 years rather than the 20 year maximum that other cities have always been required to meet.
  • The city improved its savings account to more than 8 percent if the annual budget.
  • As a result, the credit rating companies recalibrated the city’s ratings to AA+ (Fitch), AA (S&P) and Aa2 (Moody’s) with a stable outlook after two years with a negative outlook.
  • Kansas City is now well positioned to thrive once the recession is over.

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