How is the Kansas City Police Department funded, and who pays for it? It’s complicated

·6 min read

The bulk of the Kansas City Police Department’s budget, roughly $272.9 million in 2021, comes directly from taxpayers who live or work in Kansas City.

But it is also funded through a myriad of complicated revenue streams that is not transparent even to top city officials.

In addition city tax dollars, the KCPD receives millions through various federal grants, donations from private foundations and charitable organizations. It also generates revenue through a Jackson County anti-drug sales tax and a contract with Kansas City to enforce downtown parking.

The police department’s funding became a controversial political issue in May after the City Council passed a measure that would give city officials some say over a portion of the police budget. The City Council also earmarked $3 million to hire more officers.

But, partly because of the KCPD’s unusual governance structure, it would be challenging to get an accurate count of all of the dollars flowing in from other sources, said Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas.

“I am sure there is a way through some fairly technical forms of accounting that you might be able to track down things,” Lucas said. “But no, I know what is presented to us, both in the city council budget meetings and in the board of police commissioners, to the extent that there was information outside of that, I’m probably not deeply aware of it either.

“Which I think by the way is a bit of a problem. It’s vital to let people know what all is coming in. Whether it be from the police foundation, whether it be from our constituent counties. I think that there is no reason not to share it,” Lucas said.

According to the city’s finance department, KCPD funding includes the following:

$238,452,374: General Fund

$12,440,338: General debt and interest fund

$10,601,440: Various grants from the federal government and nonprofits

$7,555,029: Public Safety sales tax. These funds are restricted to cover construction and capital improvements

$2,915,994: Jackson County Anti-Drug sales tax or COMBAT

$518,590: Parking enforcement

$382,000: Kansas City health levy

It is possible, city officials said, that the police department derives additional funding from other sources, including civil asset forfeiture.

Kansas City Police Department officials have declined to make anyone available for an interview about the police budget and did not answer questions about the KCPD’s funding sources.

State law, city dollars

Missouri law requires that Kansas City devote at least 20% of the city’s general revenue to the police department. This makes the police force the largest recipient of Kansas City tax dollars.

By state law, the police department is controlled by a five-member board appointed by the Missouri governor, with one seat guaranteed to the mayor.

While the city provides the funding, its leaders do not control how the money is spent.

The arrangement is virtually unique among major U.S. cities.

“They (police department) essentially do not feel duty bound to answer to anyone for anything,” said Council member Katheryn Shields who is chair of the city’s finance committee responsible for police spending.

Dissatisfaction with that situation was one reason why the City Council, in a 9-4 vote, passed a pair of ordinances that reduced the KCPD budget by $42.3 million. It placed that money in a separate fund and requires the police board to negotiate with the city manager on using the funding for various crime prevention initiatives.

“Issues with the police department being not being responsive to the concerns of the citizens of Kansas City has been a long standing issue,” she said. “We (city council) ought to have more influence over how their money is spent.”

The reallocated dollars accounts for about 18% of the KCPD’s operating budget it collects from the city.

The budget process

The city’s budget process generally begins in September each year. Various city departments, including the police department, submit their budget proposals to the city’s finance department.

For the 2020-2021 fiscal year, the police board requested $256 million, which is 3.6% less than what they asked for a year ago.

KCPD, along with other city departments, participate in budget meetings with the city manager. The final budget is required to be approved by the city council in March, said Tammy Queen, the city’s finance director.

The city tax revenues that fund the greater part of the police budget come from a variety of sources but include sales tax, earnings tax, property tax, utility tax, business licenses and municipal court bonds, Queen said.

The nature of each revenue source determines where city leaders allocate those funds. Some revenue sources are restricted and cannot be used for any purpose other than what voters approved or what Missouri law allows.

KCPD’s annual adopted budget is available in May of each new fiscal year, which mirrors the process for all city departments. The general fund is $576 million. Of that amount, the police department received $231 million in 2021 fiscal year.

The police department has access to those funds to pay their payroll and other police expenditures. KCPD has the ability to spend money from the city’s bank accounts and reconcile with the city once each month, Queen said.

Other funding sources

Among its various funding sources, the police department generates revenue from contractual agreements through the Jackson County anti-crime sales tax, or COMBAT.

KCPD receives 9.5% of the sales tax COMBAT generates each year. In May, the agency finalized a $2,621,107 agreement with KCPD for drug enforcement, said Vince Ortega, COMBAT director.

The agency also pays KCPD $300,000 for school resource officers and crisis intervention.

Over the years, the money has increased steadily because it is based on sales tax, Ortega said.

“We had a slight dip because of the pandemic but for the most part, over the years, the money has increased fairly steadily, not in big amounts, $50,000 maybe increased every year,” he said.

Clay County has paid KCPD $11,207 for crime lab fees so far in 2021, said county auditor Victor S. Hurlbert.

In May 2020, KCPD received more than $5 million in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Justice under a new crime-fighting new initiative called Operation Relentless Pursuit.

The money was used to hire 18 people, including nine police officers, to replace those assigned to the Operation Relentless Pursuit task force, according to federal authorities.

The Police Foundation of Kansas City has given KCPD just over over $4.25 million to fund various purchases including body cameras, license plate readers, bullet-resistant vests for social workers, gunshot detection systems and surveillance cameras.

Those funds are collected through private donations, fundraisers and a variety of personal contributors, said Tye Grant, a retired police major who serves as the foundation’s president/CEO.

The group was launched in 2010 to raise money for the police department.

“The way we look at it, it’s projects and dollars that KCPD couldn’t otherwise afford and don’t otherwise receive,” Grant said. “So private interests in Kansas City want to make a difference in violent crime and so from the kindness of their hearts, they provide this funding to KCPD to do these things that they believe the city needs.”

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