Crestwood board gives initial OK to city’s 2014 budget

Final approval to be considered by aldermen next Tuesday

By Kari Williams

The Crestwood Board of Aldermen gave initial approval to the city’s 2014 budget last week with unanimous first readings of ordinances for the general fund, park and stormwater fund and sewer lateral fund.

But Ward 3 Alderman Paul Duchild attempted to eliminate capital improvement expenditures that would have affected snowplow routes.

Duchild was the sole board member opposed to the capital improvements budget because of concern over the fund’s “high negative expenditure.” For 2014, expenditures are projected to exceed revenues by $778,531.

Duchild made three motions — all of which failed — to reduce the expenditures.

First, he suggested eliminating motor vehicle and heavy equipment purchases, which included, among other items, a dump truck, an air compressor and a skid steer. This would cut 6 percent from the proposed public works maintenance budget, according to Duchild, and could reduce the city’s snow routes to five from six.

“Bringing it down to five routes is a 16-percent decrease in snowplowing, and you could argue whether you could make that even more efficient so it’s less than 16 percent,” Duchild said. “… I think a 16-percent decrease in the snowplowing service is tolerable for the residents. So I’m willing to forgo that purchase for 2014 …”

However, Ward 1 Alderman Richard Breeding said the board has to “have some faith” in department heads and “give them latitude in finding the best value for our tax dollars.”

Public Works Supervisor Mike Pratt told the board there are “too many variables” at play to determine how detrimental reducing snow routes could be.

“I certainly wouldn’t want to be evasive, but right now we need everybody we’ve got to run the six routes we have …,” he said. “It’d be my desire to go to two 12-hour shifts instead of having the guys work until essentially the snow is removed, but we just don’t have the people for that right now.”

Pratt also said he considers snow removal in the same vein as police and fire protection, adding, “… If you want a lesser level of service, that’s clearly your decision …”

Breeding and Ward 4 Alderman Dan Tennessen disagreed with reducing snowplowing routes, while Ward 3 Alderman Bill Boston said he has seen city workers plow snow from his street and return “10 to 15 times a day with no snow on the street,” often with the plow down.

“It doesn’t seem like that we don’t have enough people or trucks to plow these streets,” he said.

Ward 2 Alderman Mary Stadter countered Boston’s contention and said she has not had a similar experience on her street, while Ward 4 Alderman Mike Tsichlis said he has seen similar events.

The dump truck in question is 15 years old and has “significant rust,” according to Pratt.

Ward 1 Alderman Darryl Wallach compared the 15-year lifetime of the vehicle to $10,000 worth of expenditures per year.

“I look at it at simplistic terms …,” he said. “Now, is that enough for me to say, ‘Yes, let’s reduce the level of service for our community?’ I don’t think it is.”

Pratt said the dump truck is “like any vehicle” in that once it hits a certain point, deterioration will make it “uneconomically repairable to continue using.”

“It is running right now. It would be our intent to use it until it ceases to become economically repairable,” he said.

City Administrator Mark Sime said regardless of whether the dump truck was approved in the 2014 budget, the city would not receive it in time for the current snow season. It would have to be purchased by the end of June for use in the 2014 season.

Mayor Jeff Schlink declined to break a 4-4 tie on Duchild’s motion against buying the new dump truck. Ward 2 Alderman Tim Trueblood, Duchild, Boston and Tsichlis voted not to buy the truck, and Breeding, Wallach, Stadter and Tennessen voted for the purchase.

Duchild also made a motion not to replace a Dodge Intrepid with a four-wheel drive truck. That motion failed 5-3, with Duchild, Boston and Tsichlis voting against the purchase.

The Spellman Avenue project contributes to the decrease in the fund balance. Trueblood said the board was initially told in 2009 that the project would cost $368,800 for both phases.

“When you look at what we’re dealing with here … it’s not because the board at this time is making a decision to spend money in a manner that is foolish,” Trueblood said. “We were given this boat, and it set sail before we got to the dock …”

Current projections, according to Pratt, are $555,562.71 for phase one with a $204,333 contingency and $464,786.80 with a $184,650 contingency for phase two.

Duchild opposed moving forward with a second reading on the ordinances for all budgets to allow residents to comment. Second readings of the ordinances will be conducted when the board meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10, at City Hall, 1 Detjen Drive.

As proposed, the general fund begins with $3.49 million and has revenues of $7.95 million, expenditures of $8.09 million and a balance of $3.18 million. In the capital improvement fund, the beginning balance is $1.07 million, with revenues of $3.19 million, expenditures of $4.27 million and a balance of $423,197.

The park and stormwater fund begins with $1.24 million and has revenues of $1.86 million, expenditures of $444,748 and an ending balance of $697,571. The sewer lateral fund begins with $150,000 and shows revenues of $150,100 with an ending balance of $192,819.