Lee’s Summit city to make budget cuts

April 24, 2013 

  • $58.2 Dollars in millions the city is targeting in budget

Lee’s Summit city will be getting by with fewer people, flowers and fuel.

The city is wringing two percent out of departments’ spending requests totaling $60.4 million for the 2013-14 fiscal year which will start July 1.

City Manager Steve Arbo set a target of $58.2 million in spending for operations and asked the departments to whittle away at their requests to reach that amount.

Hitting the mark includes everything from cutting work travel to eliminating several vacant positions and transfers.

“We feel confident it we will remain at a service level we’ve provided in the past,” Arbo said.

City revenues for the general fund or 2013-14 are expected to be about $58.6 million, while this budget year spending is projected to be be about $58.7 million by the end of June.

“It is important to reduce our ongoing expenditures to balance with our ongoing revenue,” Arbo said.

For that reason, Arbo is recommending $600,000 in cuts for FY 2013-14 and another $600,000 the following year, unless sales tax revenue rebounds, or other sources of revenue increase. The budget projections already include an infusion of cash from the closing of the TIF at SummitWoods Crossing Shopping Center.

He said several trends influenced his decision to to begin cutting the budget.

Sales tax revenue is down from previous years. In the coming year, the city will get about $1.2 million in non-recurring revenue that can balance the general fund but it won’t be available in the future. The city is getting a final $1 million payment from the parks department on a loan to build the Gamber Center and from a telecommunications lawsuit settlement.

The city hopes to gain money from other sources, such as fees from pet licenses now that it is allowing them to be sold at animal clinics, or in savings such as relying on doing more work in-house rather than hire consultants.

The Budget Committee heard a sketch of the proposal April 12 and begins a more in depth review of the proposed budget on April 24 and 25. A public hearing on the budget is planned for May 16 council meeting. Arbo will offer his budget to the council, but the committee could propose alternatives.

Essential services of the fire, police, and street departments shouldn’t be affected, Arbo said.

Arbo said if there is an increase in activity, for example more building permits requested than expected, there could be an impact on customer service. He added he thinks the public would feel the cuts in mostly subtle ways.

“A phone call might go to voice mail instead of being answered on the first ring,” Arbo told the budget committee at an earlier meeting.

Arbo said the non-recurring funds are from a final $1 million payment from the parks department on a loan to build the Gamber Center and from a telecommunications lawsuit settlement.

Earlier this year officials were wishing for clear weather to save money on snow removal to help ease the crunch, but two huge storms buried that hope. This winter, Lee’s Summit received 39.7 inches of snow.

The snow budget, which is calculated on an average snowfall for three previous years, was nearly $1.1 million and the actual expenditure as of April was almost $1.04 million, said Deputy Director of Public Works Dena Mezger.

The general fund is part of the overall city budget which also includes the city’s debt, its “enterprise funds” that are operated primarily with user fees, such as the water department and funds for capital improvements.

The general fund is for operations of departments such as police, fire and planning and administration and the bulk of its expense is for personnel.

The cuts will come in a myriad of shavings within general fund programs.

The city is scaling back its investments in new information technology this year because its been aggressive in adding technology the past several years.

For personnel savings, along with eliminating the equivalent of 6.3 six full-time vacant positions, the city will be offer high-deductible health insurance plan with a health savings account to employees, which is expected to reduce the city’s costs by about $96,000.

It’s also cutting back some money for training and for police overtime.

The city is in some cases combining jobs, transferring employees to different departments or reassigning duties. There won’t be layoffs.

No longer will the city provide litter pickup downtown a couple times a week. The person currently assigned that duty is retiring and that task will be dropped, said Chuck Owsley, director of Public Works.

The allocations for service agreements with the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council, the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street Inc. will have modest cuts.

The Lee’s Summit Arts Council and the Lee’s Summit Beautification Commission won’t get as much money, either.

Councilmember Allan Gray said at the earlier budget committee he’d like to find a way to restore funding to the arts council to use for grants.

“This doesn’t seem like a time to reduce grant money when we’re talking about incubating (the arts),” Gray said at budget committee meeting.

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