Perhaps Blue Springs City Council Member Lyle Shaver said it best when he said he felt the city was simply doing what it had to do to maintain operations.

Perhaps Blue Springs City Council Member Lyle Shaver said it best when he said he felt the city was simply doing what it had to do to maintain operations.

“From what I’m hearing, we’re just maintaining the city,” he said during what was a thorough discussion of the city’s current and projected financial health.

Monday night’s work session, one of four scheduled this year, was designed to shed light on how the city is functioning in light of existing and projected sales tax revenue declines and other shortfalls.

For the most part, the city is financially stable, according to city Finance Director Christine Cates and City Administrator Eric Johnson. In February, Johnson informed city staff the city expected to see a 10-percent shortfall in sales tax revenue. But that figure has since been changed to 6 percent, or $1.5 million, for 2009.

Several cost-cutting methods – including eliminating employee pay raises, delaying the majority of capital expenditures, reducing overtime and travel/ training expenses, and delaying equipment purchases – have helped stave off the bleeding, according to Todd Pelham, assistant city administrator.

But at the same time, no significant projects beyond what have already been approved and budgeted are in the planning stages.

“We have no long-term (plans) or initiatives at this point,” Johnson said.

Some projects that were planned for have been delayed, including a public utilities building, which would have provided for vehicle and equipment storage, locker room facilities and other features. While the project design is complete, the $4.4 million project has been delayed until a revenue and rate study can be performed in 2010.

Two other allocations – a fuel dispenser truck and utilities dump truck  – have been delayed as well, while other expenses have been pushed back into 2010.

Other projects are on track, including the Woods Chapel Road improvement project, funded by bonds passed by voters last year.

“We’ve done preliminary engineering and studies with the Woods Chapel project,” Johnson said. “We’re still looking at it as a three-year project.”

Many times throughout the evening, Johnson requested that members of the City Council continue to give the city as much direction during the year as possible. Johnson asked if the Capital Improvement Committee (comprised of three council members) should continue to advise the City Council as a whole about financial situations, as well as offer recommendations.

Council Member Sheila Solon said she agreed with the process.

“I support the process,” she said, adding that it’s beneficial to hold on to operating funds, examine the situation, and then make what the committee believes are the right recommendations.

Currently, the city is operating with approximately 13 fewer positions, and Johnson stressed that when positions go unfilled, “someone else has to pick up the work.”

However, Johnson said department heads will revisit this issue  in August to see if some modest increase can be offered.

Other highlights from Monday’s work session include:

The city is expecting property tax reassessments to be down by about 4 percent. Revenue sources, including motor vehicle sales taxes, building permits and construction permits, and a tax collection contract with Jackson County, are also expected to decrease.

 

The city continues to investigate the possibility of building a recycling center at Pink Hill Park. The $92,838 cost could be paid for using a grant through the Mid America Regional Council, according to staff. The project is currently on its unfunded list.

 

Projects in the public works department, including a Tri-County water upgrade of $2.8 million and storm water infrastructure, are unfunded but included in possible upcoming projects.


Mayor Carson Ross was optimistic.

“We have our problems, but we’re not Kansas City,” he said. “But I tell people that what happens in Kansas City has an effect here, too. If we all find our niche and work together, we’ll go forward.”