Cassville City Council members adopted a conservative $3.7 million budget that predicts stagnant sales tax revenue for 2009. The new budget does include a 3.5 percent cost-of-living raise for all full-time employees.
The topic of pay raises for city employees had been discussed at the council's Nov. 17 and Dec. 1 meetings and eventually created a divide among council members when the issue came up for a vote at the council's Dec. 15 meeting.
North Ward Aldermen Pete Landstad and Dennis Baker voted against the 3.5 percent raises while South Ward Aldermen Terry Heinz and Sue Brattin voted in favor of the measure. Mayor Tracy Holle broke the tie by voting in favor of the pay increase.
According to City Finance Officer Darelyn Cooper, the total cost of the raises, including benefits, is projected to be $34,217.
When the council received its first look at the 2009 preliminary budget on Nov. 17, the document included a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase and a 1 percent merit increase for city employees.
During that meeting, Landstad questioned whether it would be fiscally wise for the city to approve a 3.5 percent pay increase when revenues were only predicted to increase by 1 percent. He suggested that the city budget conservatively and then review the issue of employee pay increases after the first six months of the year.
At the Dec. 1 meeting, the council was presented with a revised budget that included a 1 percent cost-of-living increase and no merit increase, which Heinz then questioned. He stated that he believed the employees were the city's "most valuable resource" and deserved a pay increase. Heinz said he would like to see the city cut other areas of the budget before freezing employee pay.
In the end, it was Heinz's proposal that prevailed.
The 2009 budget, which was prepared by Cooper, projects total revenues of $3,505,813 and expenditures of $3,702,422. The revenue total is based on sales tax revenues remaining the same as in 2008. Last year, the city's sales tax revenue increased 1.5 percent over 2007.
The $196,609 difference between revenues and expenditures will come out of the city's UDAG funds. This amount covers the salaries of the economic development director and the deputy economic development director as well as the cost of a master plan to guide city growth.
The 2009 budget includes very few capital projects. Some of the larger items in the city's proposed spending plan include: $23,000 for a new police car; $58,000 for the city's portion of a new bridge on Partridge Drive that will be a cost-share project with the county; $13,500 for a plow, salt thrower and calcium tank; $35,000 for an aeronautical survey at the airport; and $18,000 for a new pool fence.
An additional $150,000 will be set aside to replenish the city's general revenue fund, which was borrowed from to complete the First Street improvement project.