Awards for Excellence: City of Kansas City, MO

The Public Improvements and Advisory Comittee on Kansas City's Capital Improvements Program

About City Kansas City, MO
The City of Kansas City, Missouri (KCMO) is the largest city in Missouri with an estimated population of 491,918 in 2018. KCMO has been producing a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) with a five-year time horizon since 1997. The City has long recognized the need for public input in its CIP process with the City’s Public Improvements Advisory Committee (PIAC) overseeing the capital improvements program and reviewing neighborhood recommendations since 1983.
About PIAC
PIAC consists of 13 members, two from each of the six council districts (each council member appoints one PIAC representative) and a chairperson appointed by the mayor, with each member serving a two-year term. The primary responsibility of PIAC is to review and comment on the proposed CIP and to include as much public input as possible into the CIP process. The PIAC accomplishes this through two key mechanisms - public hearings and capital project requests. At least two public hearings per council district are held by PIAC every year throughout the summer. These hearings provide residents with an opportunity to submit project requests directly to the City and their PIAC representatives. Residents also can express their opinions and concerns, with the input playing a critical role in PIAC’s decision-making processes.

Each year, PIAC delivers a comprehensive recommendation for capital spending to the Mayor and City Council that reviews over 1,000 submitted capital requests and integrates the stated priorities of KCMO’s residents. KCMO has found the greatest benefit of this process being the yield of public participation it generates. Both advisory boards, such as PIAC, and deliberative meetings, such as the conducted public hearings and project reviews, provide a direct avenue to engage the community into the capital planning process.

Public Process

Residents can introduce project proposals at the public hearings or also submitted via paper and online forms. The formalized process for proposed projects ensures residents can provide project recommendations, guarantees all proposals are reviewed and considered, and increases transparency of the review process. To further encourage and legitimize the public input process, 35% of the City’s one-percent sales tax for capital improvements is reserved for and equally distributed across the City’s six council districts to fund neighborhood-specific capital projects. This year, roughly $4.2 million in funds was made available for projects in each council district. This program helps to ensure residents see capital projects that they have requested come to fruition where they live. 

 Staff Process
 
To facilitate additional public input, both staff and elected officials deliver presentations during PIAC’s deliberative meetings to review different capital planning strategies, department goals, and other policies that relate to capital planning. These debriefs can help generate feedback on less visible areas of the City’s capital strategy and the City’s overall strategy in each area. This year’s topics included KCMO’s: Sidewalk Policy, Departmental Goals, Annual Resident Satisfaction Survey, Revenues, and Ethics.
 
PIAC and City staff meet weekly from July to December to review each project request in detail. After all capital proposals are reviewed and prioritized, PIAC recommends an appropriations plan for projects funded through the one-percent sales tax and for the City’s five-year CIP. The City Manager then works with the Mayor and City Council to include the PIAC recommendations into the submitted budget. Any deviations from the PIAC’s original recommendation must be included in the budget’s transmittal letter along with justifications and reasoning for any changes to ensure transparency and accountability to City residents.
 
KCMO recently developed an automated process to receive and track project requests from residents using project management and workflow software. The software allows the City to collect project requests, respond to those requests, and provide planning and reporting for those requests all within one system. 
 
PIAC Benefits 
Community support for the City’s capital improvement process was reinforced with residents approving an $800 million debt-supported capital improvement program and a 20-year renewal of the one-percent sales tax. The value of engaging the public through the PIAC has been more even more apparent with the City’s most recent budget, in which the allocation for street resurfacing increased 70 percent. Residents expressed greater need for road repairs following a severe winter that had a dramatic impact on road conditions. The PIAC’s long-standing presence has made it routine for individuals and neighborhoods to notify the City of their capital priorities well in advance of emergency repair or replacement. 
 
PIAC has been the foundation upon which the City can communicate its capital improvement strategies to the public. Capital planning is notoriously complex. Fostering a dialogue with citizens can be difficult. Creating a mechanism to receive public input, particularly in the form of specific projects, has created a successful platform with which to engage the public. Reviewing the submitted proposals gives the city something tangible to discuss with residents –  something small that can build into a greater conversation.

 

Tools and Resources


GFOA Best Practice: Communicating Capital Improvement Strategies

GFOA recommends that organizations develop a communications plan for public participationfocused on explaining capital needs, options, and strategies and facilitating feedback in advance of any major capital program. Capital programs gain from the support of the community. Community support ensures that capital projects will deliver expected and desired outcomes as well as guarantee there is adequate support for the investment.

 

 

GFOA Best Practice on Communicating Capital Improvement Strategies

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