Crestwood has time to stop ‘comet’ headed toward city

By BURKE WASSON

Crestwood officials will meet in a 6 p.m. special meeting next Tuesday at City Hall to discuss an administrative strategy to revive the Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood. Because the city’s finances have experienced an up-and-down summer, this meeting is a needed good step.

On June 12, a 2006 city audit showed the “beginnings” of financial stability. But since that audit, the city’s financial future is irrefutably anything but stable.

On June 26, City Administrator Frank Myers warned of a financial “storm” resulting in a projected $3.7 million loss in the city’s three major funds by the end of 2011.

The financial picture saw another turn in July when Myers said the city’s finances actually were stable and “getting stronger by the day.”

But just barely into August, Crestwood’s financial future again has taken a turn for the worse.

In the past week, the mall was twice hit hard. First, the Westfield Group announced its obvious intentions to sell the struggling shopping center. Secondly, and more troubling, was Dillard’s announcement that it will be leaving the Crestwood mall in October.

With the pending sale of the mall and the loss of already one anchor, the city can’t afford a domino effect of closings at the mall’s two other anchors at Macy’s and Sears. The three anchors produced $486,000 in 2006 from the city’s one-cent sales tax alone. For a mall with annual revenue declines of 13 percent each year, we’re heartbroken to say that loss in revenue will be MUCH larger in 2007.

While we applaud the upcoming request for the mall’s redevelopment, the city’s up-and-down financial nature and uncertain future proves that will not be enough.

Aldermen pushed the administration July 10 to develop a long-term financial strategy. Mayor Roy Robinson was quoted the same evening saying the city still has expenses it can cut.

We agree with that conservative philosophy and urge the city to prioritize services now. Make those cuts this year before it’s too late and another tax increase is on the ballot.

As Board of Aldermen President Gregg Roby said: “If you see a comet heading toward Crestwood, you alert the people to the problem. You don’t wait until it hits and then tell them that you’ve just been hit by a comet.”

With the pending closure of Dillard’s and the future sale of the mall, some might say that comet already is on its way. Act now, Crestwood, before it’s too late.