City Council acts on Kansas City Museum, FOP, health tax

By LESLIE COLLINS
Northeast News
January  23, 2013

City Auditor Gary White received the green light from the Kansas City City Council Jan. 17 to conduct an audit of the management agreement between Union Station Kansas City and the Kansas City Museum.

In 2007, Union Station agreed to manage the day-to-day operations of the Kansas City Museum, but since that time, the implementation of the agreement has not been evaluated, said Scott Wagner, City Council member and member of the Kansas City Museum Advisory Board.

“At the very least, it’s practicing good governance,” Wagner said of the audit.

The audit will examine the management contract scope and the adherence to the contract; shared allocations between Union Station and the Kansas City Museum; management of the museum’s collections; the long range plan implementation process; budgeting; and will include a comprehensive review of the mil levy fund use and allocation.

Built in 1910, the mansion housing the Kansas City Museum was originally home to lumber baron Robert A. Long and his family. To maintain the integrity of the building and its artifacts, renovation projects were necessary. In 2007, the Kansas City Museum began the renovation process and Collections Department staff packed up all the artifacts on display inside Corinthian Hall. To date, crews have replaced and restored windows, installed historically accurate doors, removed non-original construction and installed an HVAC system for visitor comfort and to further preserve future artifacts on display. As a result of the ongoing renovations, museum exhibits and programs have been held at other venues.

The next phase of renovating the interior of the building will “involve quite a bit of money,” said City Council member Jan Marcason.

“This is a very exciting time for the Kansas City Museum,” Marcason said. “All the bones seem to be in place and the structure is in place. Now, the (Kansas City Museum) Advisory Committee is looking to programming and what exactly is the best use for the building and if making it a 501(c)3 (non-profit) has some merit.”

Turning the museum into a 501(c)3 non-profit would allow the museum to pursue additional funding avenues and possibly raise more funds for the museum, she said.

Wagner said the audit will help the Kansas City Museum “figure out the next steps.”

Fraternal Order of Police lawsuit resolved

 City Council members voted to authorize a settlement agreement in the case of Kansas City, Missouri Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #99, et al. v. Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, et al. In April of 2012, the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners approved a proposal to combine the police department’s health insurance plan with the city’s health insurance plan. At the time, the city said combining the two plans would save millions and allow for $5 million in police department raises. The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), however, said the police board’s decision violated Missouri law and was not “properly negotiated” with the FOP. As a result, a lawsuit ensued.

The settlement agreement involves appropriating $5 million in police department raises, supporting amendments to the Revised Statutes of Missouri regarding police pensions, and agreeing that the police board and city have the authority to provide health insurance to its employees through a single health insurance provider.

“I’m very pleased to see this agreement reached,” City Council member John Sharp said. “Once both sides started communicating, that was a start to having a resolution to this. I was particularly pleased we were able to come together for changes on the pension plan.”

Those changes include requiring the city to make yearly actuarial contributions to police pension funds and requires employees to increase their contributions. The pension proposal also decreases the cost of living adjustment for retired officers from 3 percent to 2.5 percent, among other changes. All of the proposed changes would need state legislature approval.

As for the health insurance plan, the city will form a Health Care Trust, which requires a minimum of three government bodies to join. The city and police department count as one joint entity, Sharp said. Asked what other entities could possibly join, Sharp told Northeast News possibilities could include the Port Authority and Community Improvement Districts.

With a Health Care Trust, the employee pool is larger, which provides more bargaining power and clout to ensure health insurance rates are fair and benefits are satisfactory, Sharp said.

City Council member Scott Taylor said he hopes the city will learn from this experience and communicate better with stakeholders in the future.

“When everybody was at the table, things seemed to work a lot better,” Taylor said. “I hope we can learn from this – the Board of Police Commissioners, city staff, the city manager’s office, the council – and make sure everybody’s at the table that’s impacted by a decision from day one.”

Health tax levy scheduled for April ballot

Kansas City voters will decide April 2 whether or not to renew a special health tax levy dedicated to ambulance services, emergency medical services, and hospital and public health purposes. The 9-year levy would cost taxpayers 22 cents per $100 of assessed valuation on real and tangible property, with revenue from 3 ½ cents of the levy going to ambulance services, revenue from 3 ½ cents of the levy to non-for-profit neighborhood health centers and revenue from 15 cents of the levy to Truman Medical Center.

While the number of indigent residents in Kansas City has continued to climb, both state and federal government Medicaid reimbursements to health care providers have dwindled, the resolution stated. In addition, the cost of caring for indigent individuals has “outpaced the revenues generated by the city’s existing health tax levy,” the resolution stated.

Sharp said Medicaid reimbursements in Missouri are extremely low. For a non-emergency transport, the base rate is $450, but Medicaid only pays $167.27 of that charge, he said.

“Even if you collect on all of those (non-emergency transports), the amount it (Medicaid) pays is only 37.2 percent of the bill. On emergency transports, it’s even worse,” Sharp said.

For emergency transports, Medicaid pays about 26 percent of the bill, he said.

City Council member Michael Brooks said health safety net providers, like Truman Medical Center, provide a valuable service to Kansas Citians.

“Passing this (tax) on April 2 is something we really must do,” Brooks said, stressing that a number of individuals are unable to access or afford health insurance and that their health care would be in jeopardy without the tax levy.

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