Blue Springs adopts 'chugging along' spending plan

By Mike Genet

While the city of Blue Springs budget for 2020-21 approved in September is more than 11 percent less than the 2019-20 budget, no employees have been cut amid the pandemic, and there will be a 2.5 percent pay raise across the board in the spring.

The budget unanimously approved by the City Council checks in at $69.15 million, down from last year’s budget of $78.27 million, as revenues from taxes and various fees are down in every area due to the pandemic. But the 309.5 full-time equivalent positions remain the same, thanks to some savings from less in capital expenses, City Administrator Eric Johnson said.

“I’m so proud of our team of people here in place, in all departments, who have been asked to do things over the last six months,” Johnson said, echoing in large part what he told the council back in August when staff first presented the budget.

“I’m most proud of the fact we’ve had no layoffs, no furloughs, and we will give an across-the-board 2.5 percent raise. There aren’t many cities right now that can say that.” 

Keeping those jobs, he said, is as important as ever right now.

“We probably have several employees whose spouses no longer have jobs. My goal is to keep chugging along here.” 

Johnson said the city had some fortunate timing in that it had recently completed some expensive one-time projects in recent years, such as water and sewer improvements and the City Hall renovation, for which it didn’t need to budget.

Regular planned projects such as street maintenance and parks renovations didn’t need to take any cuts, he said. Some vehicle and equipment replacements, like in public works or the police department, won’t happen at the same scale as originally planned.

“Maybe we do one or two trucks in public works instead of four, and three police cars instead of seven,” Johnson said, giving some general examples.

Assistant City Administrator Christine Cates said the city saved nearly $800,000 for this year by bidding out health insurance services.

Council Member Chris Lievsay had proposed earmarking $60,000 for a household hazardous waste program for residents, to be determined in the future. One option, he said, could be to rejoin the Mid-America Regional Council program that the city opted out of last year. That proposal got voted down 4-3, as some council members preferred to get more finite cost numbers before they committed city funds.

Council Member Kent Edmondson proposed adding $1 million to the annual pavement maintenance program, making it $3.8 million – a “one-time hit to help get it back in line,” he said. The council unanimously approved that move.