Crestwood eyes ’07 budget

By BURKE WASSON

Crestwood aldermen were scheduled this week to vote on the city’s proposed 2007 budget, which includes a slight pay increase for all city employees and an estimated $167,353 overall surplus.

That vote scheduled for Tuesday night was still a possibility rather than a certainty before the Call’s press time.

Mayor Roy Robinson has indicated to aldermen that the city could wait until January to approve the budget if they need more time to study it. Aldermen also extended the city’s 2005 budget into 2006 by waiting to approve its expenditures until January.

Aldermen discussed the projected expenditures during a Nov. 29 work session.

One of the expenditures budgeted for next year is an across-the-board pay increase for each city employee. As proposed, each employee would see a 1-percent increase in pay plus an extra $450 next year. City Administrator Frank Myers has estimated that the first overall pay increase in three years for city staff would come at a $94,000 cost.

And after originally projecting a surplus of more than $200,000 by the end of 2007, the city’s administration has now budgeted $167,353 in reserves at the end of next year. That has prompted some aldermen like board President Jerry Miguel of Ward 3 to further study cutting expenses to have an increased surplus.

The main reason for that drop is that the city will pay more next year on its line-of-credit principal payment to Royal Banks of Missouri than first projected. The city actually will pay $553,708 on next year’s principal payment instead of the earlier projected $520,000, according to Assistant City Administrator Justina Tate.

Of the city’s budgeted $167,353 surplus for the end of 2007, $165,364 of those savings are projected to come from the general fund. The city’s capital-improvements fund is budgeted for a surplus of $1,872, and the city’s park and stormwater fund is budgeted for a surplus of $118.

Out of all three funds, the city’s administration has budgeted $13,721,685 in revenue for all of 2007. That is more than $1 million above the projected revenue to be collected from all three funds by the end of this year, which has been projected to see $12,626,661 in revenue by Dec. 31.

The total expenditures from all three funds for next year are budgeted at $13,554,332, which is nearly $2 million more in expenses than the $11,590,161 in costs that have been projected in all funds by the end of this year. To help cover those costs, the city will use funds from its projected $1,036,500 surplus at the end of this year.

Much of the more than $2 million in added expenses are being used in the capital-improvements fund, which is budgeted to see roughly $1.9 million more in expenses next year than was projected in the city’s third-quarter financial review for all of this year. Much of these increased expenses in that fund will come from the Grant Road reconstruction, which is estimated to cost $1,261,000. But 80 percent of that cost will be reimbursed through a federal grant.

Myers is also holding police to “a higher standard” in 2007 by budgeting 45 percent more revenue from fines and court costs than 2006. The administration has recommended that aldermen budget $365,000 in revenue from fines and court costs in 2007. The city is projected to end 2006 with an estimated $251,950 in fines and court costs, which is less than the city’s originally budgeted revenue of $265,892.

Ward 2 Alderman Chris Pickel questioned the possible perception that residents might have from increased fines and court costs and said some citizens have already expressed concern.

“I’m not quite presenting a protest here,” Pickel said. “I’m simply passing on those comments. I totally understand the rationale behind the decision made. But there is a perception out there that we are strategically changing, and the mass citizenship may not totally understand what we are or why we are. To them, I think they see it as more people getting pulled over, more people getting a friendly note from the code-enforcement officer and it’s just negative, negative, negative.”

Robinson responded to Pickel that the ad-ministration is not trying to make life more difficult for residents or “look like it’s a Gestapo state,” but rather hold officers and residents accountable for their actions.

“We certainly aren’t going to be running speed traps,” Robinson said. “But when they’re speeding and they’re endangering people’s lives in our community, we expect police officers to do their jobs — especially where children are playing. You’re damned if you don’t and you’re damned if you do. All I ask all these people, and I’ve asked Mr. Myers to do this, is make sure that we’re doing it fairly. We’re not zeroing in on people because we don’t like them. We’re zeroing in because we’ve had a complaint within that neighborhood about something that’s causing them problems about their property values and all that. That’s all we’re doing. We’re not picking on people.”

Robinson also defended a recently tabled amendment to the city’s animal-control code that would raise fees for pet tags and licenses and give a right-of-entry authority that some residents call excessive to the Crestwood Animal Control Officer.

Under the proposal, annual tag fees would jump from $2 to $5, annual fees for non-commercial kennel and cattery licenses would rise from $10 to $150 and annual fees for commercial kennel and cattery licenses would go from $50 to $250. Under the city’s animal-control code, a kennel or cattery is defined as any residence that has four or more dogs and cats. In addition, sportsman’s permits would increase from $10 to $50 and rescue organizations would now be required to pay $150 for a permit.

The proposed amendment also allows the animal-control officer “the right of entry onto any lots or lands and the right of entry to any property or premises.”

Robinson, who said at the Board of Aldermen’s Nov. 28 meeting that he believes some of the fees in the proposed amendment are too high, said the following night that the proposed code changes are not a way to punish residents, but to more promptly regulate offenders.

“We are a community where people love their animals and take care of them, but there’s always those who prey on other people’s rights,” Robinson said. “There’s always a few. And what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to deal with them, if you can, right away. That’s all we’re trying to do.”