With two major Crestwood retailers closing their doors, City Administrator Petree Eastman said the financial outlook for the city looks “pretty dismal.”
If Sears closes by April 1, the city will receive sales-tax revenue only for the first quarter of the year from the store.
“It’ll take our 2012 budget from breaking even, barely, to a fairly significant deficit that we’ll have to use our cash reserves for,” Eastman told the city’s Ways and Means Committee last week. “So we can’t give you the specifics and the information, but it does dramatically change.”
Exact figures for how much revenue Sears generates for the city come from the state and are confidential, she said.
Ward 3 Alderman Paul Duchild, who serves on the Ways and Means Committee, suggested the administration review how close it can come to the expected revenue change — citing numbers the board received in 2009 when Macy’s closed at the mall — so the Board of Aldermen can talk in general terms.
“Obviously, it’s going to be reflected in the 2013 budget … But this committee needs to know that and the board of aldermen needs to know that as soon as we can to start tackling the real big questions,” Duchild said at the Jan. 17 meeting.
Because of Barnes & Noble’s closing Dec. 31, and the loss of that revenue, Du-child said he believes the committee could start working now and asked the administration to start looking at potential cuts to cover the losses.
“I don’t think we (have) that much time to wait and just talk about it, I think we should start doing something,” he said.
Eastman said she will look into what can be said about the loss in revenue and when it can be said. The city administrator also said this year’s budget has “very little give without changing the level of service.”
“We’re at the brink in both fire and police and there’s only so many administrative staff you can cut because administrative staff is the one that keeps the records, the ones that handle the money,” she said, “And we’re already pushing those folks as hard as they can go.”
For cuts, Eastman said services will need to be prioritized as to whether the city would rather perform a service half as good or eliminate the service.
“It’s going to have to be in the larger realm of what service are we no longer going to provide. And there may be a host of those,” she said.
Duchild asked Eastman for suggestions on cuts as a starting point because she is closer to the situation than the Board of Aldermen, whose members would value her suggestions.
“We may not follow the suggestions, but what I’m saying is we need to start somewhere and that would be the start to me,” Duchild said.
Eastman said she would be willing to present the board with a list of services, the cost for those services and her suggested cuts.
“The numbers are the easy part. It’s the difficulty in actually providing the services that you want and prioritizing those accordingly, and that definitely comes to you,” Eastman said.
Crestwood currently is advertising to fill two police officer posts and one firefighter position. But the deputy city clerk’s position will not be filled for at least six months, if at all, according to Eastman. She said she is re-assigning tasks within administration and that the city may spend “a little bit of money” on transcription services, but it would not equal the cost of filling the post.
“I think we end up, with benefits, it would be about a $35,000 a year savings not to fill that particular position,” she said.
In the event that the position would need to be filled, Eastman said there is still money for it.
“It’s a savings right now, but I want to leave it in the budget in case we’re finding that we’re just not able to cover all the bases,” she said.