Crestwood ends 2011 with $842,446 instead of projected deficit

City not out of harm’s way, mayor tells panel members

By Kari Williams

Crestwood’s fourth-quarter financial report gave the Ways and Means Committee more direction in evaluating the city’s budget.

The report showed a fund balance of $842,446 for fiscal 2011, whereas the original 2011 budget “showed a deficit of $249,307.”

“Based on the results of 2011, the city did better than budget by $1,091,753,” the report stated.

Ward 3 Alderman Paul Duchild, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, said he was “pleasantly surprised” to see fiscal 2011 ended with more than $800,000 “on the plus side.”

“That was really comforting to see that we’re building our cash reserves,” Duchild told the committee last week.

Mayor Jeff Schlink said while revenue has increased, it is uncertain whether that trend will continue.

“The past performance is not necessarily a future indicator, an indication of what the future might bring,” he said at the March 20 meeting.

Though Crestwood’s financial situation is not as bleak as it appeared and “quick recommendations” do not need to be made to acting City Administrator Karl Kestler or the Board of Aldermen, Schlink said the city is not out of harm’s way.

“We’re not going to pave the streets in gold by any means,” he said. “We’re not in, probably, the sky is falling situation that I think had been painted in the past.”

The committee, according to Schlink, will rely on input from department heads and have Kestler make recommendations to the board at a later date.

“There probably are some things I want to take a look at in the future,” Schlink said, “but there’s no need for us to make any recommendations at this stage because we’ve essentially bought ourselves a little bit more time with the way that the revenue’s flowing in and the way that we’ll hopefully continue to monitor the expenses that we have.”

Due to the unpredictability of sales-tax revenues for the current fiscal year, Duchild said he would like to wait to decide if the 2012 budget should be altered.

“My thing is, (we should) just step back a little bit and see how 2012 progresses as far as needing to amend the 2012 budget … That $800,000 I looked at as a real positive,” Duchild said. “Again, we can’t be sure that’s going to continue in the future, but it was a surprise to me.”

Ward 1 Alderman Darryl Wallach, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, said the city needs be prudent, even though its fourth-quarter report shows a move in the right direction.

“I think we just need to step back and look and move cautiously forward on it, but still keep an open mind because … these cycles go up and down,” he said.

A good time to look closer at the budget would be six months into the fiscal year, according to Wallach, when the city has received tax revenue from Crestwood Court’s Sears, which is anticipated to close in April.

“As we stand now, we’re three months in,” Wallach said. “I think, wait another three months … I anticipate those tax returns (from Sears) will be received in May or June. So I think at that point, we need to take a strong look and see where we are.”