Crestwood board considers $437,082 in personnel cuts

Administrator hopes to accomplish fire and police cuts by attrition

By BURKE WASSON

Crestwood aldermen have been asked to approve $437,082 in personnel cuts and adjustments as proposed by City Administrator Jim Eckrich.

The Board of Aldermen was scheduled to consider these proposals Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

With an average annual expenditure reduction of $2.28 million from 2010 through 2013 needed to keep the city’s cash balances between Eckrich’s targets of 10 percent and 20 percent, personnel cuts are recommended to reduce expenditures in the city’s general fund.

In a Feb. 27 memo to the board, Eckrich proposed the following general fund modifications:

• Eliminating through attrition two Fire Department positions besides a position cut earlier this year. Fire crews will be reduced from eight to seven personnel. The annual cost reduction associated with the elimination of these positions is estimated at $222,000.

• Eliminating through attrition two Police Department positions besides a position cut earlier this year. This will result in four four-person squads. The annual cost reduction associated with the elimination of these positions is estimated at $190,650.

• Making additional personnel cuts and restructurings resulting in an annual cost reduction of $162,725. Aldermen were asked to approve these cuts in closed session, after which the affected employees would be notified.

• The city would stop allocating a portion of salaries to the capital-improvements fund. The annual cost increase to the general fund associated with this action is $138,293. The capital-improvements fund would see an offsetting decrease in cost.

Eckrich also has indicated to aldermen that if attrition of employees in the Fire and Police departments does not occur “within a reasonable time,” aldermen may have to further address the issue in the future.

“Regarding the general fund, I am requesting that the mayor and Board of Aldermen direct the city administrator to proceed with the restructuring of the Fire Department and Police Department,” Eckrich wrote to Mayor Roy Robinson and aldermen in the Feb. 27 memo. “As described above, the cuts within these departments will be made through attrition so long as the attrition occurs within a reasonable time.

“If the attrition does not occur within a reasonable period of time, this matter may have to be readdressed by the mayor and Board of Aldermen.”

Until 2013, the city administrator has proposed “to substantially reduce” planned street projects, building maintenance, vehicle/equipment purchases and capital improvements.

With an average annual expenditure reduction of $2.28 million from 2010 through 2013, Eckrich said the city should be able to maintain a minimum beginning cash balance in all three major funds of 10 percent of total budgeted expenditures each year through 2013.

He believes the city’s goal should be a cash balance of 20 percent of budgeted expenditures.

Aldermen originally used more than $600,000 of the city’s $3.4 million in Jan. 1 cash reserves to balance a $13.7 million budget for 2009.

The Board of Aldermen already has cut $237,900 from 2009 expenses as the April 1 closing of the Crestwood Court Macy’s is expected to result in sales-tax revenue losses totaling $181,000 this year and $350,000 in 2010.

Eckrich also has responded to additional expenditure reductions proposed by Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel at the board’s Feb. 24 meeting.

Those suggestions, along with Eckrich’s responses, are:

• Reducing health-insurance costs. Eckrich has told the board that aldermen in May will consider the annual health-insurance contract for employees.

• Reducing legal fees. Eckrich has advised aldermen that from 2005 to 2008, legal fees already have been reduced by 70 percent.

• Eliminating an estimated $24,000 in annual expenditures related to the Sappington House. “My stance is that the city owns the Sappington House property and we will continue to maintain it, as we do all of our properties,” Eckrich wrote to the board. “I will once again state that I have previously met with the Sappington House Foundation, and the foundation is not willing to accept the city’s expenses associated with the maintenance of the Sappington House. The city’s agreement with St. Louis County requires Crestwood to maintain the Sappington House complex.”

• Lease of police vehicles. “You will note that no additional police-vehicle lease is scheduled until 2011,” Eckrich wrote. “Prior to the creation of the 2010 budget, the city will complete a comprehensive vehicle-replacement plan, which details how these emergency vehicles will be utilized throughout the life of the vehicle. The Board of Aldermen will be able to use this information to determine whether it is prudent to continue leasing these vehicles or to proceed in a different manner.”

Eckrich also responded to Ward 3 Alderman Gregg Roby’s request to publish all proposed cuts by project in the city’s newsletter by saying he would do so with a motion and voice vote from the Board of Aldermen.

“I would recommend that instead of listing the cuts … that the cuts be summarized,” Eckrich wrote.

The city administrator originally recommended that aldermen discuss proposed personnel cuts in closed session after the board’s Feb. 24 meeting because “specific identifiable employees” and “supporting documentation” would be discussed.

But Ward 4 Alderman Steve Nieder said Eckrich’s memo to the board did not stipulate that any personal information about employees would be discussed in closed session.

Because Missouri Revised Statute Section 610.021(3) calls for such personal information as performance and merit to be discussed to call a closed session, Nieder voted “no.”

Eckrich confirmed the day after the Feb. 24 closed session that aldermen indeed did discuss such personal information in the session.

Attorney Jean Maneke, who represents the Missouri Press Association, said last week that the Feb. 24 closed session was appropriate because specifically identifiable employees’ personal information was discussed.

“I think the discussion about how do we handle this budget shortfall needs to happen in open session,” she said. “The discussion about what categories of employees might we lay off needs to happen in open session.

“When you say what employees are going to be individually affected by this, that needs to happen in closed session. That’s very difficult to carve those areas out. But that’s what the law says you’ve got to do.”