The City of Sedalia has gotten its Fiscal Year 2017-18 budget to end with a positive General Fund balance, but several previously approved items had to be eliminated to get there.
The Sedalia City Council met for a work session Thursday night, which was scheduled during last week’s meeting after Finance Director Kelvin Shaw reported a significant decrease in March’s sales tax revenue. Going into the month, sales tax revenue was up 2.4 percent year-over-year, but March’s decrease brought that to down 1.4 percent year-over-year. City Administrator Gary Edwards told the Democrat after the work session the city is sticking with its 1.5 percent sales tax revenue increase projection for FY18, noting it’s already a “very conservative” figure the city thinks is “safe.”
To make up for that 1.4 percent loss in revenue, the city’s Budget Committee — Shaw, Edwards and Mayor Stephen Galliher — came up with a new proposal for council that eliminated items council approved during the previous budget work session.
Those removed items include reserving money for future Sedalia Fire Department purchases of SCBA replacement ($50,000) and a new fire pumper truck ($100,000) and a new cemetery dump truck ($20,000). Other savings included only sending the mayor to the Missouri Municipal League conference (savings of $7,065), increasing eligible licenses, fines, permits and fees by 5 percent (equivalent to about $30,000) and eliminating Community Center subsidies after six months (savings of $41,349).
Shaw noted they started the process of finding additional cuts this week with the premise of preserving step increases for all eligible city staff, which did happen. To stay current with the Public Safety Pay Plan approved last year to help with recruitment and retention, it was decided to give a 0.5 percent cost of living increase to public safety employees only.
The main discussion centered on whether or not to approve the Sedalia Police Department’s request of two additional patrol officers ($49,246 each) and two additional communications officers ($40,833 each). The initial budget included one of each, which council changed to two of each. The budget proposed Thursday went back to the initial one of each, with the communications officer funded by the Pettis County Ambulance District, but Galliher suggested a change — two communications and no patrol.
As reported earlier this week, the PCAD Board of Directors approved funding an additional SPD communications officer after a presentation from SPD Chief John DeGonia and Cmdr. Larry Ward. Galliher said he thought the city should match PCAD’s support and fund its own additional communications officer for a total of two. DeGonia agreed it would be fair.
“We’re asking for these officers because we need them to cover (the city),” Officer A.J. Silvey told council. “We’re not asking for 12 cops, we have to take baby steps in the right direction.”
“It’s not anything against you guys. You guys worry about your department, we at this table have the whole city to worry about,” Galliher replied. “It’s not anything personal about anybody, we have numbers we have to look at and a responsibility to the general public to take care of every department.”
Sgt. Kelley Casto added that SPD needs to grow with the city’s growth to keep up with calls. Galliher and council said they plan to revisit adding patrol officers at a later date.
The addition of the two communications officers will save the city about $10,000 in overtime.
With these changes, the General Fund balance will end positively at roughly $26,000. It will result in about $55,000 revenues under expenditures.
“We’re looking more towards (the ending fund balance) as indicating the health of the city,” Shaw explained. “The excess of expenditures, there is enough one-time type expenditures included like equipment or something. Next year if we’re finding ourselves in dire straits again or our sales tax (revenue) actually goes down, then we could stop spending. They’re not ongoing revenues versus ongoing expenditures.
“I look more to the fund number as the real bottom line, that is where we’re ending the fund balance at as far as compared to what our target is of 50 percent of our revenues.”
Council will vote on the final budget during Monday’s meeting.
All members were present.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or on Twitter @NicoleRCooke.