Crestwood committee holds off on recommending cuts, adjustments to city’s 2012 budget

Affton fire district’s tax hike to impact Crestwood budget

By Kari Williams

Crestwood’s Ways and Means Committee still plans to hold off on recommending to the Board of Aldermen cuts or adjustments to the city’s 2012 budget.

Mayor Jeff Schlink, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, told the committee April 17 he is prepared “to let the budget work the way that it is.” Schlink also plans to continue monitoring expenses and working on future recommendations to the board.

Ward 3 Alderman Paul Duchild, who serves on the Ways and Means Committee, said reviewing revenue in July would give the panel a better understanding of how the 2013 budget will play out.

“The last Board of Aldermen meeting we had a lot of discussion about whether we should have a tax increase or not,” Duchild said. “I don’t think the sky is falling right now. I think we have some time to think this out and get it right, and that’s what I would advise this board or the Board of Aldermen (to do). Let’s just take a ‘wait-and-see’ approach.”

While the committee and the board should not rush into making decisions, Ward 1 Alderman Darryl Wallach, who also serves on the Ways and Means Committee, said both should be aware of the recently approved 26-cent tax-rate increase for the Affton Fire Protection District. The measure, Proposition A, was approved with 2,463 “yes” votes, or 61.71 percent, compared to 1,528 “no” votes, or 38.29 percent.

“We need to continue to be cognizant of those expenses,” Wallach said.

The 2012 budget for the Crestwood Fire Department includes a $350,000 payment to the Affton Fire Protection District for the 290 acres east of the city between Grant and Rock Hill roads that were annexed in August 1997.

Because of Affton’s tax-rate increase, Wallach said Crestwood’s payment is projected to increase by $92,000 annually.

Keeping in mind Wallach’s comments, Schlink said the board does not need to rush into putting a tax increase on the August ballot.

“If the city was to try to move forward with something and slam it into the August election, I’d be really surprised if a strong enough case could be made that these are all legitimate reasons as to why something like that should be passed by the voters,” he said, “and I think it would be an uphill battle.”

Schlink also mentioned the board’s April 10 discussion of extending Proposition S, a 20-cent tax created to eliminate a $1.5 million line of credit and $2 million in debt at Southwest Bank, which he said would be characterized as a ‘no-tax, tax-increase.’

“I’ve always thought of that as nothing more than a marketing gimmick to say that it’s a no-tax, tax increase,” the mayor said. “It is what it is, but there’s a reason the proponents of that sales tax are going to call it that. School districts do it; fire districts do it; cities do it. It’s a, ‘You’re already feeling the pain, what’s wrong with extending it?'”

Schlink also told the committee creation of a pay plan has been on hold since late February or early March. At the next committee meeting, Schlink, Duchild and Wallach will bring a framework for how they define what a pay plan is to move the process forward, according to Schlink.

Also for the next meeting, Duchild requested discussion about how to utilize roughly $210,000 that was set aside to purchase a fire truck in lieu of the Fire Department receiving a grant to help cover the cost. The Ward 3 alderman suggested looking into applying the excess funds to capital projects in fire.

Acting City Administrator Karl Kestler, who also serves as fire chief, said he told former City Administrator Petree Eastman at least $100,000 of the set-aside amount would be needed.

The date for the next Ways and Means Committee meeting has not yet been set.