South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Projected deficit reduced in Crestwood’s three major funds

Mayor Robinson wants legal fees for economic development

After initially projecting a $249,785 deficit across Crest-wood’s three major funds for 2008, city officials have cut that projected deficit down to $163,223.

The city’s administration last week discovered that dental insurance for city employees is estimated to be $26,750 less than originally anticipated.

The administration also has reallocated costs in the municipal-court budget and discovered that part-time personnel costs in the the city’s public-services department were estimated to be $30,000 more than actual cost.

Last week’s draft of the proposed 2008 budget now shows a $28,882 surplus in the city’s general fund, a $62,268 deficit in the capital-improvements fund and a $129,838 deficit in the park and stormwater fund.

Additionally, the Ways and Means Committee last week requested more proposed cuts to the 2008 budget, including cutting a $3,000 expense for the continuation of strategic planning. The committee also previously recommended cutting a $25,000 expense to replace the Government Center’s 12-year-old phone system.

The Ways and Means Committee — comprised of Mayor Roy Robinson, Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel and Ward 4 Alderman John Foote — was scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17, to further discuss the 2008 budget.

Robinson initially proposed the elimination of a $3,000 cost to hire a consultant for a third consecutive year of strategic planning. Instead of paying the estimated $3,000 to a consultant next year, the committee proposed that City Administrator Frank Myers act as the facilitator for next year’s strategic planning.

“I don’t mind losing a year of that,” Foote said. “Frank could conduct the session and would do a good job with it. I’d like to move in that direction.”

“Whatever the pleasure of the group is fine,” Myers said.

The panel also further discussed its previous recommendation of leaving $18,000 for two seasonal public-works employees in the 2008 budget after Miguel said he was considering removing that expense.

But Robinson said that because of planned street projects for next year, the public-works department could use two additional seasonal employees to maintain the quality of the city’s parks and Community Center while not being forced to remove two employees from street-work projects to fulfill those duties at parks.

“I think if nothing else, it’s a wash …,” Robinson said. “I think what we discussed was yes, we can save the $18,000 that were appropriated. However, we’re not going to be able to accomplish some of the things we need to do in the streets and the parks without some extra assistance. (Director of Public Works) Jim (Eckrich) is actually down to no money. I mean, we’re lucky to get what we are accomplished. And I really believe that Jim needs a little help there.

“… At least during the summer months when all this work is going on and he’s trying to fix citizens’ streets and stuff, they’ll have two extras and they won’t have to pull people away from jobs and worry about whether they’re going to have enough people there to do the concrete or whatever. And things do happen. If it’s an emergency, it’s a different story.”

The city plans to utilize its capital-improvements fund to complete contracted concrete slab replacement on Grant Park Drive, Missy Court, Carrimae Court and Conser Court, all of which are in a condition that Eckrich described as “terrible.”

Officials also plan to use a federal grant to assist in the reconstruction of Grant Road.

The committee also discussed the possible addition of $30,000 in potential legal fees and an additional $8,000 in professional services for costs associated with the city’s efforts to redevelop the Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood. In August, aldermen unanimously agreed that an RDP — a request for development proposals prepared by consulting firm Peckham, Guyton, Albers & Viets Inc. — be sent to 82 developers to offer solutions for the struggling mall, which was set to lose Dillard’s this week and has suffered from average annual declines of 13 percent in sales-tax revenue.

“I’d like to have legal fees for economic development,” Robinson said. “I want it separate. I don’t want it to be spent for something else …”

“OK, so it’s $30,000 legal fees …,” Myers said. “Can you just help me understand what’s your thought there on that?”

“Well, I’d prefer not to,” Robinson said.

“All right … $30,000,” Myers said.

“I know it’s quite a bit,” Robinson said. “But the thing about it is … associated with the baggage for the redevelopment of this property over here, there is all kinds of things that could come up as far as expenditures of money. We don’t have enough money in the legal fees under the administration to be able to cover that because we just about barely got the city attorney’s money in there. I don’t want to have to come back to the board every time to be able to conduct business on our economic-development side.”

Instead of recommending that these fees and others be placed into the proposed 2008 budget, Miguel pondered whether the city should form a running list of possible expenses to be considered by aldermen on an as-needed basis in 2008.

“I don’t think that’s the way to do it because then we don’t have to sit around and beat this to death,” Robinson said. “We’re going to need these professional services.

“We’re going to need litigation. And I don’t want to meet to have a special meeting every time we try to figure if we go forward.”

“I don’t think we have a special meeting,” Miguel said. “But I think we have maybe a meeting every quarter as part of the board agenda on a quarterly basis. We have this list, which may include $18,000 for the seasonal people and may include $30,000 for potential legal economic-development fees and additional $10,000 or $8,000 for PGAV. I want to see us get to a balanced budget. But I don’t think it hurts to make a separate list of contingencies or possibilities.”

Foote said while he understands the potential for outside legal consultation and services on the mall’s potential redevelopment, he also realizes that any additional legal expense will be questioned by residents.

“You’ve got a faction in the city rightfully that has been concerned with excessive legal costs,” Foote said. “It went completely off the charts in this city. So I am sure that any time legal expenses go up, everybody’s going to fall out of the woodwork and, excuse the expression, express displeasure. We’ve got to watch those costs because they’ve gotten way out of hand. So if it is delineated as a developmental account for the benefit of the mall or for other procedures, it should be separate.”

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