Council hears budget requests from public safety groups

Two days down, and a month to go. The City Council is one step closer to laying out its priorities for next year through the budget.

Posted: May 1, 2019 11:42 PM
Updated: May 2, 2019 7:52 PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.)— Two days down, and a month to go. The City Council is one step closer to laying out its priorities for next year through the budget.

The proposed $178 million budget for the 2020 fiscal year is smaller overall compared to 2019’s $194.8 million actual budget. In total, the projected budget is close to $17 million less than the adopted budget for the 2019 fiscal year. But the budget is just a projection and will be adjusted by the city council throughout the fiscal year as unforeseen expenses crop up.

Important upcoming budget dates:

  • May 2, 4 p.m.: Council meets to work on Proposed Budget
  • May 7, 4 p.m.: Council meets to work on Proposed Budget
  • May 8, 4 p.m.: Council meets to work on Proposed Budget
  • May 24: Council publishes a budget summary for the public to view before the budget hearing
  • June 3, 7 p.m.: Public Hearing for Budget/CIP Plan/Sewer Rate
  • June 17, 7 p.m.: Council votes to adopt FY 2019/2020 at the regularly scheduled meeting.
  • July 1: Budget goes into effect.

Council members met Wednesday to hear presentations and discuss individual budgets for the Health, Police, and Fire Departments. Those three departments fall under the Public Safety umbrella and split a third of the general fund.

Next year’s proposed budget allocates $38.5 million to Public Safety programs.

A smaller budget is the result of sinking revenues and rising costs

City Manager Bruce Woody said the slimmer budget resulted from flat and declining operating revenues combined with rising personnel-related costs.

"All of the Departments were asked to make some cuts,” Woody said. “I asked each department to make somewhere in the range of 8-10 percent cuts in non-salary items such as materials, supplies, and things like that."

In the last five years, overall total revenues in the general fund have only risen 9.7% while expenditures have risen 18.2%, according to the budget documents.

"We are looking at all different types of ways to save money,” Mayor Bill McMurray said after Tuesday’s meeting. “We are going to be frugal and balance the budget.”

City staff has proposed spending $128.4 million for normal city operations and then $49.6 million on capital improvements. For comparison, the city of St. Joseph spent $135.7 million for normal operations and an additional $59.2 million on capital improvements.

Proposed cuts to meet new smaller budget

The proposal suggests trimming the budget in the following areas:

  • Department Directors reduce actual operating expenses, and on top of that, the City Manager will cut 2 percent across all programs.
    • Woody estimates the 2 percent cut in expenses across the board will save $205,480.
  • The City will leave six jobs, that are currently vacant, unfilled and cut one job.
    • According to budget documents, the vacancies will lead to $1.1 million in savings.
  • The salary and benefits section of the budget will have less room for error. Usually, the City budgets for 100% full employment knowing turn-over in staff will result in coming in under budget by about 4 to 6 percent in those areas. This year, city staff has suggested budgeting for only 97.5 percent employment.

Plans for how the money will be spent

A chunk of the budget is funded through the General Fund, which the proposed budget includes about $60.3 million from. 

The money in Special Revenue Funds is designated for specific projects and can only be used for that purpose. Basically, those special funds are already spoken for. For example, Public Safety, TIF, Gaming Initiatives, and Street Maintenance are all special revenue funds.

The Capital Projects Fund is the pot of money set aside for new construction, expansion, renovation, or replacement of an existing city facility or facilities. More often than not, an infrastructure project falls into this category. 

Capital Improvement Projects

It's the first year of Capital Improvement Projects for the new 5-year project cycle. The new cycle starts July 1 and runs through June 2024. CIP projects are separate from the proposed annual budget.

The capital program holds close to $64.5 million and the largest single project is to put a new fire station #8 along Mitchell Avenue, east of I-29, according to the proposed budget. The current fire station is located at 33rd and Mitchell.

The council spent hours moving through line-item budget suggestions Wednesday and is set to do it again Thursday.

The budget must be complete and ready to be adopted by June 17.

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