Miguel opposes ordinances OK’ing Crestwood’s 2007 budget

City budgets 2007 surplus of $167,353

By BURKE WASSON

Crestwood aldermen last December had to wait until January to agree on a budget for the next year. This December, the budget was passed on time.

Aldermen voted 6-1 on Dec. 12 on three separate ordinances approving the budget for the city’s general fund, capital-improvements fund and park and stormwater fund.

Board President Jerry Miguel of Ward 3 was the only alderman to vote against all three ordinances. Ward 4 Alderman Steve Nieder was absent.

Miguel did, however, vote with the rest of the board to have a second reading of each ordinance.

The board president told aldermen that while he could not support the ordinances approving the budget for any fund, he would not delay the will of the majority of the board by voting against a second reading.

“I will not hold up a second reading on the budget,” Miguel said. “But I think the board has an option here of either approving it this evening or of saying: ‘Let’s tighten it up more. Let’s not make this budget so loose. Let’s increase the accountability.'”

Among each of the city’s three separate funds, the now-passed 2007 budget has an overall surplus of $167,353. Of that surplus, $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.

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 is estimated 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.

Among the expenses budgeted for 2007 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 in 2007. City Administrator Frank Myers has estimated that the first overall pay increase in three years for city staff will cost $94,000.

The budget also includes a $9,000 expense to schedule another three-day, strategic-planning session next year.

Myers hired strategic-planning consultant Lyle Sumek this year to begin the city’s strategic-planning work.

The Ways and Means Committee recommended in October to not include that $9,000 expense for strategic planning in next year’s budget. Miguel and Mayor Roy Robinson both made that recommendation as members of that committee. Ward 1 Alderman Richard Breeding, who also serves on the Ways and Means Committee, was absent from that meeting.

Miguel again reiterated last week that he is opposed to another three-day, strategic-planning session in 2007 and said the city could instead schedule a “one-day recap.”

But Breeding and Ward 1 Alderman Richard Bland both expressed last week to the board that they are in favor of at least budgeting the $9,000 expense for strategic planning and then studying its merits later in 2007.

“The strategic plan, I think, is very important that it stays in the budget,” Bland said. “Do we need to spend the money? I would like to revisit that as well. I’m not going to be a proponent of just throwing money out because we have it in the budget. However, I’ve talked to department heads and I have not had any negative feedback regarding that strategic plan.

“They’re using it now in performance appraisals to guide employees towards common goals … I think taking something like that out of the budget sends a very negative message in that this is so important, we’re not going to fund it.

“And I think that’s a terrible message, especially when we have those goals right outside the (Government Center) chambers there. And it’s listed in expenses throughout the budget.”

But before any money would be spent on strategic planning next year, Robinson told aldermen last week that he would make sure it is justified.

“This I promise,” Robinson said. “I will bring it to everybody’s attention, including the city administrator. He won’t be hiring anybody unless he’s talked to me. And I’ll make sure the money’s not spent if we can’t afford to do so. So we’ll go back to … we’ll be getting involved, let’s put it that way, if that money is spent.”

Miguel also told aldermen last week that he is opposed to hiring an administrative intern for half a year at $15,000, hiring an additional police officer and insourcing work among the city’s current employees.

At the October Ways and Means Committee meeting, Miguel was skeptical of Myers’ proposal to name Economic Development Specialist Ellen Dailey the executive director of all tax-incentive boards in the city. Myers said that insourcing these responsibilities to Dailey would save the city the $200 per hour that it had been paying bond counsel Jim Mellow to work as executive director.

But Miguel said last week that he believes such moves could potentially lead to increasing employees.

“I don’t feel a case has been made to insource work,” Miguel said. “Insourcing, in my mind, has not been cost justified. Insourcing eventually leads to the need for increased staff.

The board president also told aldermen that he believes the budgeted revenues for 2007 have been estimated too conservatively.

“A lot of good work has been done in putting this budget together,” Miguel said. “And I feel a lot of good work was done in the past year holding expenses at the level that they have been held. Still, I think my major concern is that we need to be looking five years out. To cover a couple of items real quickly, I’ve been the ultimate critic — the ultimate on revenues. Now I’m going to the other side, and I feel that the sales-tax revenues are overly conservative. I understand the need to be conservative, but I don’t think our revenues are going over the edge. I think we need to be a little bit more pragmatic. If they do go over the edge, it’s the city administrator’s responsibility to come to the board and communicate.”

Bland responded to Miguel’s concerns that the budget is more of a plan than a fixed outcome and that he is confident the board and Myers would address any problems next year.

“I appreciate Alderman Miguel’s diligence in looking at the budget,” Bland said. “But this is a working document. We’re not going to be able to get to a point where we’ve got it figured out to the penny. We’re as dependent on sales tax as we are if we’re not going to figure it down to the penny. I think the budget as proposed is actually pretty good. Could it be better? Yeah, probably. But I think overall the budget is pretty good … Part of this budget is more than just dollars and cents.

“Part of this budget is kind of taking a pledge to back the city administrator to an extent in that there is a plan to restructure the city staff and city government.”