Lawrence City Commission moves forward with draft strategic plan that will guide city budget decisions | News, Sports, Jobs

Meghann Showers

City commissioners and city staff discuss a draft of the city’s strategic plan as part of a virtual meeting Oct. 13, 2020. City leaders are moving forward with a draft of the strategic plan that will guide budget decisions for the next two years, and more detailed discussions […]

City commissioners and city staff discuss a draft of the city’s strategic plan as part of a virtual meeting Oct. 13, 2020.

City leaders are moving forward with a draft of the strategic plan that will guide budget decisions for the next two years, and more detailed discussions about how to accomplish the plan’s goals are forthcoming.

As part of its work session Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission discussed key pieces of the strategic plan, which will update a plan created by the last commission in 2017. City officials said the plan would play an important role in the city’s budget process and prioritization of the city’s funding.

“This is not meant to be a nice, pretty plan that we adopt and sit on the shelf,” Budget and Strategic Initiatives Administrator Danielle Buschkoetter said. “This is really intended to be the plan that really drives our day-to-day work, and everything that we do should be able to be tied back to the strategic plan.”

Specifically, the strategic plan will help inform changes to the 2021 budget, development of the 2022 budget, and drive the day-to-day operations and deployment of staffing resources, according to a city staff memo to the commission. Though the city adopted the 2021 budget in August, the city has described the 2021 budget as a placeholder because the commission will likely make amendments once the strategic plan is adopted. That process was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic and a desire to account for calls for police and racial justice reforms.

The draft plan includes goals related to the economy, safety, and welcoming neighborhoods, among various others. The commission did not suggest any changes to the draft plan as part of Tuesday’s discussion, and the draft will come back to the commission for final adoption later this month. Once the commission adopts the plan, city staff will bring back work plans related to the various commitments and outcomes, as well as specific performance indicators for the outcomes that will be used to measure the city’s progress.

photo by: draft plan

A draft of the city’s strategic plan includes five outcomes that the city hopes to achieve.

Commissioner Lisa Larsen said she will be particularly interested in the work plans, and the measurable actions the commission will take to implement the plan.

“The proof is in the pudding and what happens after this,” Larsen said. “I’m looking forward to how we move forward with it. This is just early, phase one, so we need to figure out how we can actually implement this thing and do it right.”

The draft plan includes six commitments and five desired outcomes. The commitments comprise statements related to community engagement; efficient and effective processes; equity and inclusion; sound fiscal stewardship; staff engagement; and environmental sustainability. The outcomes comprise statements related to the city’s “unmistakable” identity; strong and welcoming neighborhoods; safety and security; prosperity and economic security; and infrastructure, asset management and connectivity. The entire draft strategic plan is available as part of the agenda materials.

Mayor Jennifer Ananda said that she was excited for the plan and the direction it will provide for city leaders and city staff.

“I think there are a lot of opportunities (in this plan) that will help us kind of hone our direction, maintain a course,” Ananda said.

The strategic plan will come back to the commission for adoption on Oct. 20. Buschkoetter said the work plans would come back to the commission for discussion in early 2021.

In other business, the commission:

• Received a report comparing the cost of living in Lawrence to dozens of other nearby cities. For Lawrence, the total cost — which comprises all taxes and all utilities, both publicly and privately provided — was $15,525 annually as compared to the average cost of $15,559 annually.

• Voted 4-1 on second reading to approve an ordinance to reduce the speed limit on residential streets from 30 mph to 25 mph and to spend $220,000 to add new speed limit signs to residential streets, where signs typically are not posted currently. Mayor Jennifer Ananda opposed the ordinance.

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