Cuts made to balance city budget

Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Parsons returns to council Democrat Photo On Monday night, Cassville Mayor Bill Shiveley recommended Jeff Parsons be appointed to the vacant south ward alderman seat on the Cassville City Council. Aldermen Darrell Ledenham, Ann Hennigan and Terry Heinz approved the recommendation, and Parsons was sworn in by Noelle Harmon, Cassville city clerk. Parsons, who was originally elected to the south ward seat in April of 2011, resigned from the council on March 19. In a letter, he cited a decision by former Mayor Bill Hill and former City Administrator Eugene Dilbeck to hire an additional position as the reason for his resignation. Dilbeck resigned on March 26, and Hill resigned on April 2.

On Monday night, the Cassville City Council unanimously voted to eliminate the economic development department and the economic development director position in an effort to balance the city's budget. The decision, which was made after an executive session, went into effect at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Lynette Dilbeck has been serving as the city's economic development director.

Earlier in the meeting, the aldermen approved a revised budget for 2012, which included a $79,192 deficit in the general fund.

"Under direction given by the mayor, we eliminated the fee in lieu, which is an informal franchise fee," said Noelle Harmon, city clerk. "Our fee in lieu was 5 percent. A lot of cities have a fee in lieu, but we can't afford to when the water and sewer funds are so severly compromised, so it has been removed."

The fee in lieu allows cities to recoup a franchise fee for the operation of water and sewer services.

This year, the City of Cassville budgeted $63,434 for the fee in lieu. At the end of April, $15,800.47 of that funding had been used. The remaining funds will remain in the water and sewer account instead of being transfered to the general fund.

"The salaries were also divided between the administration and water and sewer accounts," said Harmon. "A time study was created to determine how much time is required for water and sewer operations. Now, an administrative fee will be taken from the water and sewer accounts for that time."

Revenue estimates were changed to reflect the same revenues collected in 2011. The budget that was approved earlier in the year estimated that revenue would drop 1 percent compared to last year. Currently, the city's revenue has increased by 4.1 percent when compared to 2011.

"This is clearer bookkeeping," said Harmon. "It resolves a lot of issues, such as splitting auditing expenses, election expenses and even individual office supply expenses."

In the future, each department will be responsible for paying for supplies using money from their operating budget.

Harmon also decreased the operating expense for building inspections from $20,158 to $13,424.

"The building inspection and permit expenses were overstated," said Harmon. "We have had less building than we did last year."

Although the revised budget shows a deficit in the general fund, the parks department and capital improvement accounts offer $40,107 in revenue over expenses and the water and sewer accounts show $251,539 in revenue over expenses.

"It is critical to show positives in those accounts," said Harmon.

Mayor Bill Shiveley also directed Harmon to eliminate transfer procedures that were instituted this year.

"If you transfer money in and out, you can make accounts balance when they don't," said Shiveley. "You also don't know the cost benefit when you do that."

Shiveley estimated that the changes in the budget would provide the city with a $200,000 increase in reserves over a 12-month period. During the remainder of 2012, the city should see a $115,000 to $120,000 increase in reserve funds.

"We are using other people's money," said Shiveley. "We must be conscience of how we use that money."

Shiveley recommended the council approve the revised budget and address the deficit in the general fund later in the meeting. The alderman unanimously approved the recommendation.

According to the revised budget, $91,774 was budgeted for the economic development department for 2012. This included $52,940 in payroll expenses and $38,834 in operating expenses.

Harmon said that the council will formally approve the revised budget at a future meeting. At that time, she will present more information regarding how much has been spent on economic development this year and how much money will be saved over the remainder of the year after the elimination of the department.

Cassville citizen Dale Reed also addressed the council during the meeting. Reed, who lives on Meadow Drive, requested the city consider paving 287 feet of roadway located between Clover Street and Meadow Drive.

"Last year, Steve (Walensky, public works director) put gravel and base rock on the road, and that did help," said Reed. "But, that has gotten broken up, and the dust is getting into our house. My wife has health problems and should not be breathing that. No one should be breathing dust like that."

Reed presented the council with a $2,876.55 bid from Hutchens Construction for the chip and seal of the road. Walensky also presented a $4,530 verbal bid from Hutchens that would use hot mix to pave the road. Due to the fact that a heavy trash truck uses the roadway, Walensky recommended hot mix for the project.

"My concern is that I know there is no money this year," said Walensky. "I planned to ask for money for this and another road for next year's budget."

Shiveley said that the council might be able to revisit the request later in the year. Walensky was directed to obtain hard bids for the project and present the information to the council monthly so that the project can be approved when funds are available.

In other business, the Cassville City Council:

* Appointed Jeff Parsons to serve as south ward alderman.

* Authorized Harmon to approve purchases up to $1,999.99. All purchases $2,000 or above must be approved by the council.

* Approved a special use sign permit for a LED sign that will be placed in front of the Get Nailed salon on Highway 112.

* Appointed Ed Gallagher to a four-year term on the Planning and Zoning Commission and Merle Rogers to a two-year term on the Park Board.

* Approved a fireworks sales permit for Hale Fireworks, LLC.

* Discussed a letter from Landon Fletcher, Cassville Senior Citizens Rental Housing Corporation Board president.

* Approved a policy for filling private swimming pools with a liability waiver. Citizens will be charged a minimum $25 fee for filling private pools.

* Discussed a letter from Donna Creel regarding sewer fees related to sprinklers and landscape watering. Walensky said residents can choose to install a secondary irrigation meter for $914. Irrigation meters are not charged sewer fees.

* Received an update on the bypass elimination plan, which is currently being completed by Olsson and Associates.

* Heard that Gary Markenson will provide council training at Cassville City Hall from 7 to 9 p.m. on Monday, June 11. Aldermen from neighboring cities have been invited to participate in the training.

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