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Jefferson City gears up for 2014 budget work

Jefferson City staff are well into planning for the 2014 fiscal year, with City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus expected to give his proposed budget to the mayor by May 15.

Interim Finance Director Bill Betts said Nickolaus’ budget plans will be made public this year and posted online after it’s given to Mayor Eric Struemph. Struemph will have less than two months to make his adjustments before revealing his budget to the full City Council this summer.

Betts said department directors also will be giving memos to council members detailing requests they had for funding that may not have been granted in Nickolaus’ budget.

In discussing the 2014 budget process at the Finance Committee meeting earlier this week, two council members brought up the idea of evaluating the proper level of staffing at City Hall. Third Ward Councilman Bob Scrivner said he believed an evaluation needed to take place considering the amount the city hopes to save from not filling open positions.

The vacancy savings are separate from the savings achieved through the city’s early retirement program, or separation incentive plan. In the budget cuts approved by the City Council in March to make up for the $1.68 million budget shortfall, the city needed $150,000 from savings from the early retirement program and $187,000 from vacancy savings. The city was able to save more than $200,000 from the early retirement program for this fiscal year.

The city has several high ranking positions open that will remain that way at least for the next fiscal year, with existing staff serving in the interim. Those positions include fire chief, public works director and finance director.

“I think this whole process should involve a re-evaluation of what our staffing levels should be,” Scrivner said. “At some point in time that needs to be addressed.”

Second Ward Councilman Shawn Schulte agreed, saying each department should have something called “position control sheets” that tie to their budget and outline each position.

“To use vacancy savings as a tool to balance the budget, I don’t like,” Schulte said.

Scrivner said the vacancy savings create a type of cushion and gives the city a budget that’s not realistic.

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