Monday, August 31, 2009

City budget workshops set tone for upcoming FY in Rolla

The unseasonal, yet beautiful fall-like weather we have experiencing the past two weeks can only make you appreciate more the advantages of living and working in the Rolla area. I hope you have had the opportunity to enjoy the weather, take a stroll, play a little tennis, and maybe spruce up your yards and businesses as we roll out the welcome mat as we once again play host to the Tour of Missouri international pro cycling event (Stage 3 Finish) that is just around the corner on Sept. 9 in downtown Rolla.

When you add to all of this record-high enrollment at Missouri S&T, the restoration of the downtown business district, and the birth of a new Arts and Entertainment District, momentum for our enhanced quality of life continues to build.

Every year about this time is also the review, discussion and proposal of the City’s annual budget, which was discussed by members of the Rolla City Council for nearly four hours at a budget workshop held last Monday at City Hall. City Administrator John Butz, together with all of the City’s nine department heads presented an overview of the City’s General Fund, Special Revenue Funds, Capital Projects Funds, Proprietary Funds, Fiduciary Funds, and current budget situation. The dialogue, questions, and feedback helped to address many important budgetary aspects of the proposed $23 million budget that impact the delivery of city services. I cannot emphasize enough how much I appreciate the amount of planning and effort that went into the preparation of this year’s budget by the City’s department heads, City Administrator, and the Budget Review Committee that consisted of City Council members Gary Hicks, Don Barklage, and Monty Jordan; John Butz and Steffanie Rogers, Finance Director. Their diligence and ability to meet the fiscal needs of our City, cut costs, and provide a balanced budget, was greatly appreciated.

While about $1 million in unfunded requests were discussed during the workshops due to sales tax revenues dipping to about .5% for the year, there was a sense of optimism among Council members and City staff that Rolla will rebound from the downturn in the economy and resume a 2% to 3% growth rate in the years to come. Sales tax revenues, which are the primary generator of revenues for the City of Rolla, are once again projected at 1 percent for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, which will allow the City to provide the same level of services you have come to expect.

Some equipment, unfunded positions, infrastructure improvements and capitol improvement projects once again have needed to be put on hold due to lagging sales tax revenues, but the operations of all City departments are running smoothly and efficiently. And while a 1 percent Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) will be proposed for all full-time City employees in the 2009-2010 budget, funds were not available for employee merit increases this year. Given that the State’s annual budget is down 5.5 percent and many cities and towns across Missouri are experiencing deficits as low as 6% to 8% in their budgets, the City is somewhat fortunate to be keeping its head above water during these challenging economic times.

Public hearings to discuss and provide input on the 2009-2010 City budget, which officially begins on Oct. 1, will be held during the Sept. 8 and Sept. 21 Rolla City Council meetings at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at Rolla City Hall (901 N. Elm Street). For more information regarding the City’s upcoming 2009/2010 budget, please contact the City’s Finance Director at (573) 426-6980 or visit the City’s Website at A hard copy of the proposed City budget is also available for review at Rolla City Hall.

Growing and stimulating the economy continues to be of utmost importance to the Rolla City Council and City staff as we continue to work collaboratively with organizations and agencies such as the Meramec Regional Planning Commission, Rolla Regional Economic Commission, Missouri S&T, Phelps County Commission, Rolla Downtown Business Association, Rolla Area Chamber of Commerce, Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and the Missouri Municipal League.

Attracting new businesses and industries to the area, completing phase one of Rolla West with the new entrance to the Missouri S&T Innovation Park on Bryant Drive off Kingshighway, and implementing a new Community Improvement District (CID), which will help fund the first phases of the Rolla West project, will help accelerate economic development, encourage growth, and create employment opportunities that will fuel our economy.

The creation of an Enhanced Enterprise Zone (EZZ) along I-44 east of Rolla is another way the City and Phelps County can address the economic lull we are experiencing, and create property tax abatement incentives that will attract businesses and industries to our area that will create the job opportunities that everyone is talking about in our area and across the state of Missouri.

In fact, there are already over 63 such Enhanced Enterprise Zones located throughout every area of the state, including many of cities located along I-44 such as St. James, Waynesville, Cuba, Sullivan, Lebanon, and many other cities who compete with our city for new industries, businesses and ultimately employment and investment opportunities. The boundaries for the proposed EZZ in Rolla are being finalized through a series of meetings attended by members of the MRPC, RREC, Phelps County Commission and the City of Rolla. These are public meetings that have been attended by members of the local media, and interested residents. A public hearing to discuss the proposed EZZ in Rolla was originally scheduled for the Oct. 5 Rolla City Council meeting, but was recently canceled when the City was informed that the representative of the Missouri Department of Economic Development could not attend the meeting due to a scheduling conflict. A new date for the EZZ public hearing has been set for Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at Rolla City Hall (901 N. Elm Street).

I highly encourage all residents and members of the community to attend the EZZ Public Hearing on Oct. 13 to become better informed, and provide your input and feedback on this important and economic tool that will attract businesses and industry to the area, and most importantly create the badly needed jobs to our area.

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