The creation of a position of diversity, equity and inclusion officer is part of the City of Topeka’s 2023 budget proposal.
The Mayor and Topeka City Council will hold a public hearing on this proposed financial plan when they meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday in their rooms at 214 SE 8th.
Mayor Mike Padilla and council members also plan to talk about the four finalists who will be Topeka’s next city manager and consider temporarily removing the city’s residency requirement.
Creating jobs linked to diversity means changing “the way we think”
Creating the proposed position for the DEI officer is about changing “our way of thinking,” Padilla said Aug. 23 during his monthly press conference with Acting City Manager Bill Cochran.
Unless the Topeka city government places a strong focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, those things can get “lost in the mess of everything that’s going on,” said Padilla, who is Hispanic.
The DEI officer would team up with the mayor and city manager to ensure the city continues to work on an ongoing basis to pursue diversity, equity and inclusion, he said.
This officer would serve as an advocate for the community and ensure that everyone feels treated fairly, Padilla said.
The DEI position is budgeted at $130,000 for salary and non-healthcare benefits, said Taylor Schley, communications specialist for the city.
Proposed budget would cut factory tax but increase property tax revenue
Members of the public can pre-register to speak at Tuesday’s public hearing on the proposed budget by contacting City Clerk Brenda Younger’s office at 785-368-3940 or [email protected] .
People can also speak at the hearing without registering in advance, Schley said.
The mayor and council are scheduled for September 13 to consider adopting a 2023 budget.
The City of Topeka Property Tax Levy is part of a total property tax bill that includes levies that help fund other government entities including Shawnee County, Washburn University, Districts public schools and local transport, libraries and airport authorities.
City officials are working to adopt a results-based budget for 2023in a new process aimed at opening a direct line of dialogue between the city and those who inhabit it.
The proposed 2023 budget in its current form would cut the city’s property tax mill by one mill from its current level of 39.939 mills.
A levy of that amount would result in the assessment of $672 in municipal property taxes for a $150,000 home, according to a graph on page 14 of page 564 proposed budget.
The city’s estimated property tax revenue under the proposed budget would increase by 5.23%, Schley said.
The city is able to reduce mill tax while increasing property tax revenue due to an overall 8.5% increase in assessed property assessments in Topeka, Cochran said in a letter that is located on page 8 of proposed budget.
Mayor and council expected to discuss finalists for city manager
The mayor and council also plan to go into executive session on Tuesday to discuss the four finalists to become Topeka’s next city manager, Schley said.
“If it is decided to take action, it will be done at the public meeting,” she said.
Last week, the mayor and council held in-person meetings with the finalists, who are Mike Harmon, David Johnston, Stephen Wade and Abbe Yacoben.
Harmon, 40, is the chief operating officer of a Wyoming electric utility. Harmon served as city administrator from 2017 to 2021 for Spearfish, SD, from 2015 to 2017 for Fairfield, Iowa, and before that for Crystal Lake, Minn. He previously served as a police officer and then resource coordinator in Pierre, SD
Johnston, 62, served as city manager from 2017 to 2021 for Covington, Ky., and from 2009 to 2016 for Maple Valley, Washington. He was village administrator from 2004 to 2008 for Rantoul, Illinois; city manager from 2000 to 2003 for Westfield, Indiana; and village administrator from 1997 to 2000 for Coal City, Illinois.
Wade, 55, has been employed since 2020 by the City of Topeka, where he serves as director of administrative and financial services. Previously, he spent 30 years in the media industry, including serving as 2018-2020 editor of Topeka Capital-Journal and as managing director of The Augusta Chronicle in Augusta, Georgia.
Yacoben, 46, has served as Deputy Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer for the City of Las Vegas since 2017. She previously served as Director of Finance and Budget from 2015 to 2017 for the City of Avondale, Arizona, and Director of Finance from 2009 to 2015 for the City of Freeport, Maine.
Repeal of the residency rule to consider
The mayor and council also plan on Tuesday to consider temporarily repealing the city’s residency rule, which requires city employees to live in Shawnee County.
The proposal implied that the residence rule would come back into force on December 31, 2027, unless the mayor and council voted before that date to extend it.
Since the early 1980s, the city has required all of its employees to be “bona fide residents of Shawnee County”, although it allows new employees to relocate to Shawnee County within six months of being hired.
The proposed order would temporarily remove that rule, instead requiring most employees to live only in Kansas.
The proposal on Tuesday’s agenda would retain the current requirement that department heads live in Shawnee County. The city manager would be required to live in the city of Topeka.
Employees in “critical response time positions” would be required to live at a location within a 45 minute drive of the reporting position/office, unless a shorter response time is required by the city manager.
Tim Hrenchir can be reached at [email protected] or 785-213-5934.