Saturday, September 3, 2011

Balancing budget top priority for City Council

As the Rolla City Council winds down a lengthy six-month annual budget review process that began in April 2011, I would like to share the content of a recent memo that was sent to all Rolla City employees by Rolla City Administrator John Butz.
Considering the size and scale of the issues the City Council is facing as they continue to discuss ways to balance the budget for the upcoming 2011-2012 fiscal year, I thought it would especially be appropriate to reiterate John’s message to our residents and the Rolla community.
The Council’s challenge in balancing the budget, is even more complicated in the fact that the City’s General Fund cash position desperately needs to be rebuilt. The City’s primary tax revenues in FY 2012 will still likely be less than our FY 2007 tax revenues, which has eroded the City’s “unrestricted” cash position – including the funds needed to pay many bills and much of the City’s payroll.  Further complicating things is the fact that the Sewer Fund, Recreation Fund, The Center Fund, Environmental Services Fund and Street Fund all have reasonably good cash and reserve balances.
As explained to our employees, within the purview of governmental fund accounting, it is not appropriate or legal to arbitrarily shift dedicated funds (sewer fees, trash fees, or dedicated sales taxes such as the transportation sales tax, parks sales tax, gas tax, etc.) to the City’s General Fund to cover basic City services. So although some citizens may have the perception that the City doesn’t necessarily need some of the projects included in the budget such as a new public works facilities, Rolla West improvements, roundabouts, parking lots and festival tents, it’s not really a case of choosing one over the other. Each of the City’s nine funds needs to balance independent of the others – and that is the City’s biggest challenge. The general taxes (sales and property tax revenues) of the City are what supports the General Fund, which is the fund that is in dire need of a cash infusion.
Departmental budgets were submitted in June and July and reasonable cuts were made throughout.  For five years the City has diligently deferred the purchase of equipment and vehicles, deferred hiring replacements (have previously not funded the city engineer, fire marshal, and one building inspector position), deferred many capital projects, and limited personnel increases; and yet, unfortunately, it appears we will likely need to move into specific manpower cuts in FY 2012.  As of the Aug. 22 budget workshop we were still looking at an additional $300,000 in cuts to the General Fund.  After several hours of budget deliberations the City Council made the following motion:        
1)    A proposed .05 cent increase in RMU electric franchise for street lighting
2) Allocation of approximately $60,000 of direct expense from Sewer Fund to offset engineering costs
3)    Elimination of proposed 1% COLA in the entire 2012 budget
4)    Layoffs or additional retirements equivalent to $100,000 in the General Fund
5)  Support for ERIP (Early Retirement Incentive Program) subject to approval at Sept. 6 City Council meeting
6)    Support for consolidation of parks/recreation departments subject to approval on Sept. 6
7)    $25,000 increase in building, park and miscellaneous fees
8)    Hiring freeze

Despite spirited debate Council felt a combination of revenue increases and budget cuts (primarily affecting the General Fund and Park Fund) was necessary.  At this point City staff is finalizing legal review for a possible increase in the RMU franchise fee from 5% to 5.5% (for street lighting) and fine-tuning the final resolution approving the Early Retirement Incentive Program. Unfortunately layoffs in the General Fund remain a strong possibility depending on the number of retirees and the opportunity to reorganize departments. We asked for continued patience as we work through this difficult process.
On a separate note, as we look toward spending time with family and friends over the Labor Day weekend I’d like to remind everyone that Rolla City Hall will be closed Monday, Sept. 5 in observance of the Labor Day holiday. The Rolla City Council meeting, which is usually held the first Monday of the month, will be held Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall (901 North Elm Street). To review a copy of the City Council agendas or the full agenda packet, please visit City Council meetings are also broadcast live on Rolla Channel 16 (RC16). To check to see when the City Council meetings are rebroadcast, please check the RC16 Program Guide online at
The Environmental Services Department will also be closed on Monday, Sept. 5 in observance of the Labor Day holiday. Monday’s trash on Tuesday and Tuesday’s trash will be picked up Wednesday. There will be no special pick ups on Wednesday. For more information, please call the Environmental Services Department at (573) 364-6693.
The Centre, Rolla’s Health and Recreation Complex, located at 1200 North Holloway Street, will be closed Friday, Sept. 2 through Monday, Sept. 5 for facility’s annual preventative maintenance, and will reopen on Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 5:30 a.m.
This weekend will also be the final weekend SplashZone (Rolla’s outdoor water park), will be open this year. Closing day at SplashZone is Monday (Labor Day), Sept. 5 from 12-noon to 5 p.m. The popular Canine Plunge (end of the season swim for pets), where you may bring your dog to the SplashZone, will be held on Saturday, Sept. 10 from 12-noon to 3 p.m. Registration to this popular event is required, and there is a cost of $5 per dog. All dogs must be vaccinated, accompanied by their owners and be socialized. This event is limited to 30 canines. For more information please call SplashZone at (573) 364-8222.
Have a safe Labor Day weekend and holiday, and a safe school year!

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