Sunday, August 16, 2015

Joplin city budget: no raises for employees, $725K to cover Parks, Golf course deficits

The Joplin City Council is expected to approve a budget that calls for no raises for city employees for a second straight year and elimination of the capital replacement funds for the General, Parks, Health, and Golf Course funds.

The city will also not fill the assistant city manager position that City Manager Sam Anselm held before he was promoted following the firing of Mark Rohr.

The budget also calls transferring $725,000 from the general fund to the Parks and Recreation and Golf funds to cover an expected $625,000 deficit in the Parks Fund and $100,000 in the Golf Course Fund.

The approval of the budget is on tap for the 6 p.m. Monday Joplin City Council meeting. The budget message sent by Anselm to City Council members paints a bleak picture of the city's financial condition"

To Mayor Michael L. Seibert and Members of the Joplin City Council:


Presented herewith is the proposed budget for fiscal year 2015-2016 for the City of Joplin, Missouri. Similar to last year, we continue to face challenges to our General, Health, Parks, Airport and Golf Course funds as head into next year.

While the budget you are presented with is balanced as required by our charter, I cannot say I am entirely pleased to present this budget to you for several reasons I will detail below. But primarily, this proposed budget includes no provisions for raises for employees for the second straight year.

Additionally, all of the capital replacement has been cut from the General, Parks, Health, and the Golf Course funds. I am concerned about the domino effects of the two drastic measures to balance the budget, because neither of the steps we've taken is sustainable if we hope to retain quality employees and provided needed services at current levels to our citizenry.

Any local government organization's most valuable asset is its employees. Staff in our public safety (police and fire), public works, planning, health, and parks departments provide mission-critical services to our residents, supported by employees in our administrative, central garage, finance, human resources, information technology, and municipal court departments that play a behind the scenes equally important part in delivery of quality service. All of these employees need the necessary resources and equipment to safely and effectively administer current programs and services, but foregoing raises and delaying equipment replacement will only place a greater burden on our employees in the future.

Looking Back

The following goals were included in the budget message I submitted to you last year. Before we turn our attention to next year, I wanted to provide you with an update on where we stand with each of these goals:

- Efforts will continue towards the development of a new pay plan- data collection is complete. We are currently evaluating the potential financial impact.

-Review and revision of our city policies and procedures- the employee manual is in progress about 50 percent complete. The next step will be a review by department heads, then the Personnel Board.

-A thorough review of all of our processes, including our budget process, to ensure we are conducting business as effectively and efficiently as possible- the Request for Proposals for priority-based budgeting services was let, and a contract for approval will come to Council in September; a review of other processes and procedures will take place in the upcoming year as time allows.

-Development of a five-year Capital Improvement Plan as required by Charter- in progress.

-Development of goals and performance measures for each department- Not achieved.

In addition to the goals from last year, the major accomplishment over the past year has been the successful completion of the capital planning process that was undertaken to identify how the remainder of our U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development CDBG-DR funding was to be allocated for disaster recovery. The six-month process to compile, research and recommend the projects for consideration was handled professionally by staff and representatives from Deloitte, and I would also like to commend the City Council for your thoughtful deliberations. The list of approved projects will benefit our community for years to come, and several of those projects have been included in the proposed budget.

Budget Highlights

Certain assumptions have been built into the proposed budget, including an anticipated sales tax growth of one percent, an increase of three percent for family health insurance and four percent for single health coverage, as well as a decrease in LAGERS retirement from 15.5 percent of general employee wages to 14.9 percent. The contribution for Police and Fire Pension is decreasing from 29.25 percent of public safety wages to 29.07 percent. This year's proposed budget has projected revenues in the amount of $198,490,016, with expenditures totaling $178,234,767.

To address specific concerns with the proposed budget, the General Fund was balanced by cutting all capital expenditures and by decreasing the transfer to emergency communictions. For the past 10 years, the city has been paying an annual lease to Motorola for communications equipment. That lease expired during the 2014-2015 fiscal year, so the transfer from the General Fund to communications was reduced by $250,000. However, this is a temporary solution becaue in 2017 Motorola will no longer support our radio equipment, so a new lease will likely be needed in two years. Our projected unrestricted General Fund balance at the end of the 2015-2016 year is $5,267,702. This represents $15.9 percent of our General Fund operating budget and should be sufficient to cover any unexpected expenditures, but we will have to carefully monitor expenses to ensure the unrestricted fund balance remains healthy.

The Parks Fund has a projected deficit, so I am recommending the transfer from the General Fund be increased by $625,000, in addition to cutting all capital expenditure. Likewise, the Golf Course has a projected deficit of $326,000. After a recommended transfer from the General Fund of $100,000, I am hopeful that cooperative weather and the addition of the golf pro position will result in increased rounds of play, but again, delaying capital purchases to properly maintain the course will pose a future risk to our success in turning things around at the golf course.

In terms of positions, there were over 50 requests for added positions across all departments, but once again, due to our financial condition, it is unwise to add that many positions at this tie. However, with the increase in sewer rates that went into effect for 2015, we do have an opportunity to add positions in the Sanitary Sewer Fund to help improve operations. Those positions are:

-A civil engineer II for sanitary sewer design
-An engineering technician for sanitary sewer design
-A wastewater pretreatment technician to work with our commercial customers
-(2) wastewater treatment plant operators to safely operate our treatment facilities
-A utility billing supervisor to oversee billing operations

In the General Fund, the proposed budget includes the following position changes:

-Delete the assistant city manager position
-Add a police officer (grant funded)

With respect to the assistant city manager position, we have operated for over a year without someone in that role, and given the financial situation we face next year, I am confident that we can operate effectively without that position for another year. The utility billing supervisor position is one that could be utilized to oversee that division of finance, and with the supervisor position added, we will be up to five employees in that division. However, before that position is advertised and filled, I would recommend we conduct an assessment to see if staffing levels are appropriate, or if opportunities exist for a third party to take over billing operations.


Despite the challenges we face as we head into next year, I remain positive and optimistic that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Necessary conversations will be taking place over the first several months into our new fiscal year as we work together to align and prioritize the goals we have as a community with the programs and services we offer to achieve those goals, through the priority-based budgeting process.

These conversations and decisions will undoubtedly be difficult, but nearly 100 communities have signed on to this new budget process with successful results. If approved by the council, Joplin will be the second city in Missouri to adopt the budget process (Branson is the other.) As was the case last year, I will close this message by saying our mission is "To provide efficient delivery of quality services to the people living, visiting, or doing business in the city." Despite our challenges, through continued improvements to the way we do business, the organization is well positioned to accomplish our mission.

Respectfully submitted,

Samuel L. Anselm
City Manager
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Anonymous said...

How does the $325,000 pent on that skateramp park feel now? Irresponsible? Or just stupid?

Anonymous said...

Makes more sense to spend one-time money for a skate park that keeps teens off the streets and private property with their boards than it does to annually underwrite a money-sucking golf course for rich old farts who could afford to pay much higher fees.

Anonymous said...

Sell both off or charge high enough fees to at least break even.

Sam A. said...

The skate park was approved by voters in 2011 as part of the parks and storm water sales tax renewal, which is a dedicated source of funding for those projects. We cannot use those funds for purposes other than what voters approved.

Sam A. said...

The final budget will not be approved until October for the start of the new budget year on November 1st. Tomorrow is merely the public hearing for the proposed budget. Budget work sessions, which are open to the public, will take place September 14th, 15th, and 16th (if necessary).

Anonymous said...

SPEND SPEND SPEND...until the money runs out.
Then cry "Help"; no raises for employees; and then lay the groundwork for a tax increase.
But NEVER NEVER cut any spending. Keep the golf course running at a deficit year after year. And keep spending because no one cares.

Anonymous said...

Here are some suggestions for the City:
1. Reduce the City's workforce to a level more commensurate with other similarly sized cities. Start at the top and work your way down in eliminating positions which are not absolutely necessary.
2. Reduce and/or eliminate the city's expense to the Chamber for economic development. Most people can remember when the City accomplished more in the way of economic development when it peformed this same function with 1/10th the staff.
3. Focus more effort on areas of the city other than the downtown. A review of the city's tax revenues and where they are collected will demonstrate that the City's greatest opportunity is everywhere else but downtown.
4. Restrict participation on city boards and committees so as to prevent the same people from serving on multiple committees and influencing the city's direction to suit their own agendas.
5. Stop creating TIFs which create financial hurdles for our schools and City. Good sound long term developments should not be dependent upon a TIF.
6. If a city recreational service costs more to operate than it produces then either eliminate it or increase the prices. Plain and simple.
These are just a few ideas....none of which requires a degree in rocket science or voodoo economics.