The Sedalia City Council made recommendations for the Fiscal Year 2017 budget draft during Monday’s work session, with only a few weeks until council is scheduled to vote on the final proposal.
Finance Director Kelvin Shaw, City Administrator Gary Edwards and Mayor Steve Galliher have spent the last several weeks meeting with city department heads and going over the line-item budget to get to the current draft, which was presented to council Monday.
“We’re at the state where we need more input from you,” Edwards told council at the beginning of the work session. “… This will help staff prepare the budget draft.”
The proposed FY17 budget includes a 1 percent increase in sales tax revenue, which Shaw called “what we think is conservative, but not overly conservative.”
“Year-to-date we have 2 percent growth for this year, so we’re thinking we’re going to come in a little bit better than budget this year,” he said. “We’re adding another 1 percent to that higher figure and that represents the (increased) $120,000 that we put into (FY17) budget.”
The general fund will also have an ending balance of $7,204,451, only hundreds of dollars below 50 percent of the general fund, which fits within the city policy of staying between 25 and 50 percent. Shaw said he recommends staying at the 50 percent level.
Council was asked for its recommendations regarding unfunded priorities, budget levels such as sales tax projections and user fees, employee health insurance, employee wages and police pension funding.
No specific recommendation was given regarding health insurance, as new bids just came in; that will be brought to council for consideration at a later date.
Council agreed that the newly designed public safety pay plan should be implemented in the FY17 budget, which was discussed in length during the January strategic planning session. The gross cost will be $190,258, but the cost above the normal 2 percent step increase is $113,086.
“It’s only going to help our department,” said Sedalia Police Department Chief John DeGonia. “This isn’t implemented yet so we can’t put (these new wages) out there, but we’re having testing this Saturday and we had 12 people apply” compared to 30 to 40 in past years when SPD’s wages were more competitive with area cities.
Sedalia Fire Department Chief Mike Ditzfeld agreed, saying it will be a “win-win for us as employees and as an employer.”
Council also agreed on a 3 percent possible increase for non-first responder city employees. The wage scale will be adjusted by 1 percent and a step increase of 2 percent for eligible employees who receive a “pass” on their evaluation. Those numbers were already in the draft budget.
Council was also asked for its opinion on funding for community service organizations. Most received the same amount of money they received last year, with Economic Development Sedalia-Pettis County receiving a $5,000 increase from $125,000 to $130,000 and Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival receiving a $500 increase from $9,500 to $10,000; board President Kathleen Boswell had requested $18,000 earlier this year. The official agreements will be presented to council for consideration at a later meeting.
City staff created a list of unfunded priorities — items that are needed in the near future but couldn’t be budgeted in FY17. Shaw said although those items aren’t included in the budget, it is important to keep this list so “as additional revenue becomes available, we’ll have a list of priorities ready.”
One of those items included increasing funding for the Street Department. For the last two years, the department has received $1 million, a record amount. Interim Public Works Director Ellen Cross reported during the strategic planning session that $1.7 million is needed yearly to keep up with Sedalia’s street needs. Shaw said the FY17 budget includes $1 million for streets, and recommended taking another look at the budget mid-year to see if more funds could be allocated to streets.
Shaw noted during his presentation that “revenues are growing, but growing slowly.”
“We can only grow expenditures as the revenues will allow and as we pointed out, our major source of revenue for general government services is sales taxes, which have recovered from the recession but the growth rate is still much slower than pre-recession times,” he said. “The addition of the use taxes is a huge help but we should be cautious to invest these dollars wisely.”
Council will hear a budget presentation during its March 7 pre-council meeting, which will be followed by a public hearing at 7 p.m. to allow citizens to give comments or input regarding the FY17 budget. Any further changes as directed by council will then be incorporated into a final draft of the proposed budget for council consideration at the March 21 meeting.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.