Capital improvements, including the completion of the Woods Chapel Road corridor project will continue to be a major focus of the city of Blue Springs over the next year.
The Blue Springs City Council approved the 2013-14 budget Thursday. Councilman Ron Fowler was the only one to vote against. The city presented a balanced budget with both revenues and expenditures projected at $78.69 million.
Overall revenues for the city have increased. However, this is primarily because of the issuance of bonds for the remodeling and expansion of the Public Safety Building. The project is one of the largest single expenditures in the budget at $20 million. Another $5.68 million and $4.2 million will go to water and sewer respectively, and $7.13 million has been allocated for street construction and improvements.
Other projects included in the budget include the dredging of the lake at Rotary Park ($150,000); equipment and vehicles ($1.56 million) and repairs to the City Hall complex ($209,000).
Five amendments were made to the budget. The first was made by Councilman Kent Edmondson. It was for an additional $10,000 to the Downtown Alive group to put toward a full-time employee to oversee the group. He said Downtown Alive estimates that it will cost $30,000 a year for such a position. The remaining two-thirds will have to be sought from private donations by Downtown Alive. The amendment was approved 5 to 1 with Ron Fowler against.
The second amendment is in regard to the 401(a) city match to the employee retirement plan. Eric Johnson, city administrator, said the city began offering the match in 2001. Maxing out at 3 percent in 2007, it was cut in half three years ago as a way to balance the budget. This amendment restores it to 2.5 percent. It was unanimously approved.
The third amendment was in relation to an employee longevity plan. A tool to retain long-time employees, it will give employees a 2.5 percent salary increase every five years. The amendment was approved 5 to 1 with Fowler voting against.
“Certain employees work six to 10 years and then make the decision to leave our organization because they feel like they have maxed out here,” Johnson said. “This gives them an incentive. The longer they stay, the greater the opportunity to get those increases.”
The fourth amendment is an additional $100,000 to maintain the newly landscaped areas along Woods Chapel Road. The amendment was unanimously approved.
Johnson said the additional money would come from funds the city is no longer using to subsidize ambulance service. “With the passage of the EMS levy, that freed up some resources,” he said. “We can use those to reallocate to other areas.”
The last amendment was made by Councilman Chris Lievsay regarding the city’s Emergency Reserve Fund, which is used toward any emergency expenditures that might occur during the fiscal year. The general fund balance is required to stay at or above an amount equal to 30 percent of the General Fund operating expenditures.
Lievsay proposed reducing this to 25 percent for one year, amounting to about $1 million. This would be used to put toward sidewalk repairs throughout the city. The amendment was approved 4 to 2 with Jeff Quibell and Ron Fowler voting against it.
“This still gives the city an opportunity to resolve any issues that we might have,” Lievsay said. “But it also frees up funds to put toward the continued repair of our sidewalks.”