Whatever the official agenda will include, Blue Springs City Council members and department directors can expect one issue   to surface during Monday night’s work session: the budget.

Whatever the official agenda will include, Blue Springs City Council members and department directors can expect one issue   to surface during Monday night’s work session: the budget.

Merideth Parrish, the city’s spokesperson, said Thursday city staff was busy finalizing the agenda for Monday’s session, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the Howard Brown Safety Building.

“There may be a few additions to the preliminary agenda,” Parrish said, “but the city’s budget and capital improvements plan will be the main point of discussion.”

Early spring work sessions in the past have typically helped city staff prepare for the upcoming budget, which is passed usually in October.

Budget concerns have already been publicly announced. Earlier this month, Eric Johnson, the city’s administrator, notified city staff by memo that sales tax revenue has declined during the first five months of the 2009 fiscal year operating budget.

Following the holiday season, the city began noticing that typical sales tax generating areas like car sales and retail were down. And with those losses come the after-effects, specifically in licenses and permits.

The estimated $250,000 loss (or 10 percent) in such revenue prompted the city to suspend annual pay raises for employees, as well as direct staff directors to reduce overtime; reduce operating supply amounts and contractual categories; delay the replacement of operating equipment; and stop the filling of job vacancies except public safety.

Johnson said he expects the city to have a $1 million shortfall for 2009.

Monday’s meeting will be open to the public, Parrish said, though it is unlikely the City Council will accept public comments.

“Historically, work sessions have always been the chance for directors and City Council to discuss issues and future projections,” Parrish said. “The public can certainly attend, but they’ll be asked to observe only.”

Monday’s work session is the start of what is planned to become  a common occurrence this year: regular work session meetings. To improve communication among City Council members and ensure continued governmental transparency, work sessions will be held  more regularly.

“Work sessions are now planned for Monday evenings whenever there is no City Council or Planning Commission meeting,” Parrish said. “That’s typically during months that have a fifth Monday.”

That decision was reached last month when Mayor Carson Ross and City Council attended a retreat at The Elms Resort and Spa in Excelsior Springs. In addition to several topics, City Council members and Ross also discussed City Council relations and how the city should continue and improve upon transparency.

Other topics reportedly discussed during the retreat include a new city hall, a community center, and approaching federal mandate for police radio conversions.

Parrish could not say for certain whether those topics will  be discussed Monday night, but it’s possible.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the ideas discussed during the retreat will be brought up again Monday,” she said. “But certainly  the focus will be on the city’s budget and capital improvements.”