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Shawnee Takes A Big Stride Toward Transparency

 

October 22, 2020

Suzie Campbell

Four year old Kennedy Allison, daughter of Chance Allison, brought the meeting of the Shawnee Board of City Commissioners to order Monday, Oct. 19.

By SUZIE CAMPBELL

The City of Shawnee took a big stride toward better government transparency Monday.

During the regular meeting of the Shawnee Board of Commissioners, members approved entering a contract with OpenGov. City Finance Director Ashley Neel said the new software would help with both the budgeting process and transparency.

Neel said, on the budgeting side, the software would save approximately two solid weeks of work for her. It would eliminate the need to send out spreadsheets to all the department heads and then email information back and forth until the process is finished. OpenGov will pull the data from the accounting system with information from the past two years. It will then send the information to the department heads, and they can view the data and send back a budget request.

The transparency portion of the software will consist of an interactive website where citizens can search for specific data. For instance, citizens can search for current salaries in the police department or the various departments' current budgets.

Neel said another feature is the ability to create a page for various projects being done by the city. An example would be 45th Street. "You can write a description and have a map where you can zoom in," said Neel. "You can put graphs and data, and attach documents, all for the public."

The first-year cost of the OpenGov software for implementation and licensing is $99,008.02, which was included in the current budget. The two additional annual licensing fees are $41,104.49 each year.

Sales and use tax collections for the City of Shawnee continue to come in over the projected budget. Combined collections for October totaled $2,077,385.23. According to Neel, sales tax collections are $1,414,296 or 21.62 percent over the projected year-to-date budget, and use tax collections are 4.96 percent over the projected year-to-date budget, or $38,616.

Three agenda items dealt with city ordinances. Two of those were proposed amendments to ordinances, while the third was a request to rezone the property.

One proposed amendment now allows the city manager to spend up to $50,000 to purchase, contract for and purchase, or issue purchase orders for supplies, materials, or equipment when these items have been previously budgeted. However, if the items have not been budgeted for, the city manager may not spend more than $10,000 without prior approval by the City Commission. The last time this ordinance was updated was 2008.

The other ordinance change dealt with the surplus requirements for non-real estate property. Changes now allow the city manager to determine the best disposal method for non-real estate property valued between $1,000 and $5,000. A list of surplused property in this category and the method used to surplus is to be acknowledged by the city commission no later than the second city commission meeting after the disposal.

Non-real estate property valued under $1,000 and determined by the City Manager to no longer be needed for public purposes may be disposed of through the method deemed appropriate by the city manager.

Neel said the changes to the sale of surplus was set up to create a clear structure of what needs to be surplused by the city.

Commissioner Bob Weaver said, "I have an issue with that." The issue seemed to be just disposing of an item versus reporting the item as sold and how the value was determined.

Neel said policies could be set in place to assist department heads with this, and the city manager would make the final determination.

The consideration of an ordinance to rezone property located on West MacArthur was deferred to a future meeting.

Mayor Ed Bolt proclaimed October 6, 2020, as James Harrod day. Harrod said, "In the 16 years I served (on the board of city commissioners), I hope I made a difference for the citizens of Shawnee."

In other business, the board

• Approved the bid by South Central Industries to purchase .32 acres at 229 N. Kickapoo for $42,000

• Approved the mayor's reappointment of Rev. Ray Belford and Ken McDowell to the contract review committee.

 

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