Crestwood budget funds sidewalks by Lindbergh, cemetery fix

By Erin Achenbach, Staff Reporter

The Crestwood Board of Aldermen unanimously adopted the city’s 2021 budget Nov. 24, funding sidewalk construction near Lindbergh schools and preservation efforts at the Sappington Cemetery.

As proposed, the budget projects total revenues of $13.18 million and total expenditures of $13.79 million across all four funds: the general fund, the parks and stormwater fund, the capital improvements fund and the sewer lateral fund.

“This was one of the more challenging budgets to put together given all of the uncertainty on the revenue side of the equation due to COVID and who knows what the ongoing financial effects are going to be,” said City Administrator Kris Simpson at a Ways and Means Committee meeting Nov. 16. The Ways and Means Committee is a committee of the whole comprised of the Board of Aldermen that meets ahead of the budget public hearing each year to review the proposed budget from city staff and offer amendments.

“In forecasting revenues, I took a conservative mindset, which I normally apply, and probably gave it an extra dash of conservatism on top of that,” said Simpson. “I think it’s fair to say the revenue budget assumes that we will be dealing with some kind of economic fallout due to COVID-19 for the entire year.”

If vaccine rollout is successful, “then there’s room for some cautious optimism,” Simpson added. 

The general fund projects a year-end balance of $6.97 million, which is above the city’s 45-percent reserve policy.

The parks and stormwater fund projects a year-end balance of $829,959, while the capital fund will have $1.4 million.

Across all four funds, the ending fund balance is estimated at $9.57 million and the fund balance reserve is 65 percent.

“One thing I’d like to note about the general fund budget is that a significant amount of capital projects are included in that fund,” Simpson said at the public hearing Nov. 24. “We have a number of grant-funded projects that require a local match, as well as other capital projects that if they were not funded out of the general fund, the general fund would be well in the black. … Now we do have a deficit in the general fund this year, but I wouldn’t call it an operational or structural deficit because … if you remove those capital expenditures, the operational budget would be well in the black.”

Other notable aspects of the budget include $6.3 million in revenue from sales/use tax across the general fund, capital improvement fund and parks and stormwater fund, while $2.7 million in revenue is projected from property taxes.

Utility taxes will generate $1.3 million in revenue.

Out of total expenditures, public safety accounts for the majority of expenses at $6.7 million, with $3.2 million to fund the Crestwood Police Department and $3.5 million for the Crestwood Fire Department, followed by $4.1 million for public works.

General fund expenditures total $10.7 million, while capital improvement expenditures total $1.2 million and parks and stormwater total $1.7 million.

Lindbergh sidewalks funded

No members of the public or the board spoke during the videoconferenced public hearing.

But aldermen made several amendments to the budget in committee, adding more funds to the $50,000 already budgeted to fund sidewalk construction near schools. Lindbergh Schools agreed to match Crestwood on the project.

“There’s been some initial discussions with Lindbergh, and Lindbergh is also working on funding new sidewalks in their budget. Now they’re a little bit behind us, their budget is a summer-to-summer budget … but we want to increase the walkability around schools in the district,” said Mayor Grant Mabie.

“So to put in an entirely new sidewalk, which is what we’re looking at doing with Lindbergh this next year, it’s probably about a $100,000 project. … I think it would be appropriate to raise that number a small amount (so that) beyond covering the … new sidewalk construction, we also cover some amount of sidewalk maintenance.”

Mabie suggested an additional $25,000, bringing the total amount budgeted for school sidewalks to $75,000.

“I love Crestwood and Lindbergh School District working together to enhance the walkability and safety at the same time on the sidewalks, I think that’s a great move,” said Ward 4 Alderman Tony Kennedy. “I think it would be appropriate to increase the sidewalk construction number more than $50,000 and just looking back at the great work we did in 2018 … so I would just make a motion to increase that line item to $75,000.”

Kennedy’s motion passed unanimously on a voice vote.

Sappington Cemetery funded

Mabie also suggested adding money to fix the retaining wall at Sappington Cemetery near Watson Industrial Park. The wall is in dire need of structural repairs and was “one of the items that is easily very high on the capital list for the board and the staff and one of the items that did not get included in the budget,” said Mabie. “It’s in a really dilapidated condition where I think it’s probably at the point of being disrespectful to the deceased. … It’s a city piece of property now, it’s our obligation.”

Kennedy questioned if the problem was a safety issue or if it was mainly cosmetic.

“It is getting close to the end of its useful life and if you have a catastrophic failure of that, you’re going to lose part of the cemetery and that’s probably not something we want to have happen,” said Public Works Director James Gillam.

The Sappington Cemetery was established in 1811 and is one of the oldest cemeteries in St. Louis.

Kennedy motioned that the budget be increased by $65,000 to replace the retaining wall, which is currently made of wood and railroad ties, with a concrete retaining wall. The motion was seconded by Ward 2 Alderman Mary Stadter and passed unanimously by voice vote.

At the public hearing, Ward 1 Alderman Mimi Duncan said that it was the right decision to include additional funding for the cemetery wall in the budget.

“We talked about Sappington Cemetery and the retaining wall and what bad shape that was in. … I did go by it this week and Mr. Mayor, you were exactly right,” said Duncan. “It is in dire need of replacement, and it really makes that area look bad. So I am pleased that you suggested it and we did add it to the budget.”