To make some of the final budget adjustments to maintain agreeable health insurance for Independence city retirees, the city is cutting back some animal shelter and IndeBus hours for at least half a year.
But while City Manager Zach Walker worried last month that some personnel might be cut to make the budget fit, that ultimately did not happen.
In all, Walker had more than $1.148 million of budget adjustments, approved Monday by the City Council. Perhaps the two biggest changes the public will notice, even if it amounts to just $40,000 in savings:
• Closing the animal shelter to the public on Mondays and Tuesdays, when it had been open just for intake from the public (staff will still be on site for animal care), and closing an hour earlier at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
• Ending IndeBus transit one hour earlier each weekday. Service will now end at 6 p.m.
Walker said some of the moves could be reversed in the next budget cycle. He shaved five vacant positions and one contract positions and decided to reclassify or hold open a few other positions. The biggest monetary adjustment $135,000 comes from moving a fire training chief position from the general fund to be covered by fire sales tax.
When the council approved the 2019-20 budget in June, it did so with the idea that city staff would work a special health insurance committee to come up with an agreeable retirees plan that cost less for the city. In September, the two sides announced a plan for similar coverage that projects to save the city about $3.5 million annually.
“That deal we were able to reach was tremendous, and they will not see any deviation in coverage,” Walker said in November.
The city only needed to make budget adjustment for half a year, “To close the gap between what was in the budget and the great compromise that was reached,” as Walker put it, because insurance coverage is based on a calendar year, whereas city's fiscal year runs July 1 to June 30. Walker said last month he had delayed bringing the budget adjustments to the council last month because he wanted to make sure all cuts had been done thoughtfully, knowing some employees might be affected.
“All the hard work and labor, the heartache of the last few months is finally coming to an end,” said former police detective Bob Sorensen, who represented retirees in negotiations, “and it's good for everybody in the city and the retirees.”