Plant loss takes heavy toll on city budget

RR Donnelley closure will trim revenues by $140,000 a year

The loss of nearly 500 jobs from the closing of the RR Donnelley plant later this year is being taken into account by the Jefferson City Council.

During a budget committee meeting Thursday night, Mayor Eric Struemph and Interim Finance Director Bill Betts said they had downsized their projections of the anticipated 2014 revenues.

Betts said some of the biggest losses will be in sales tax, where Donnelley pays the city around $10,000 a year, and they anticipate an additional $50,000 loss in sales tax revenue when the jobs disappear.

It’s also anticipated the city would lose around $80,000 in franchise and utility taxes from the closing of the plant.

All told, revenues in the proposed budget would drop to around $28.7 million for 2014.

To offset those losses, Struemph proposed some revisions to his budget, including eliminating $60,000 for a new patch truck for the public works department.

He also wouldn’t fund $40,000 for a new vehicle to be used by assistant fire chiefs and reduce the contingency fund from $122,000 to $72,000.

“We had to look at things differently after the RR announcement,” he said. “These items had been on the bubble before this occurred.”

Meanwhile, Struemph did want to fund a full-time finance director at a cost of $130,000.

“Per the spirit of our charter I believe a city of our size should have a full-time director,” he said.

“I agree with the mayor because with a budget of $66 million we need a full-time director,” said Budget Committee Chair Shawn Schulte. “I think Bill and his staff are doing a fine job, but they are being worked thin now.”

Other items Struemph included in the budget were $100,000 for street chemicals and $3,000 for security for city council meetings.

Struemph also would add $5,000 for additional funding for a neighborhood incentive program to provide down payment assistance to potential homeowners in the Old Town area.

Missing from Struemph’s budget were funds for a raise for city employees or to give them floating holidays.

Fourth Ward Councilman Carrie Carroll proposed a 0.5 percent raise across the board for 2014 — at a cost of $115,650.

Last year, a 2 percent raise cost the city roughly $400,000.

“We are a service business and if we don’t maintain a high level, service will suffer,” Nickolaus said.

Carroll suggested the money to pay for this could come from a number of areas, like doing away with the full-time finance director for another year or take away some money intended for street chemicals and the remainder of what was in the contingency fund.

The committee reject the idea on a 6-3 vote.

“I’ve been led down this road before and I just don’t see how we can do this with what we’ve been presented,” said Fifth Ward Councilman Ralph Bray, who opposed it.

The committee also decided not to use $7,500 to fund two floating holidays for city employees.

Nickolaus had proposed the holidays, saying each employee could choose two days to take off. Supervisors would make sure the departments wouldn’t be short-staffed.

In talking to employees, Nickolaus added they prefer this instead of a permanent holiday being added to the city’s schedule and it would cost the city less to do this.

“I just can’t believe that figure,” Struemph said.

“In talking with Mr. Nickolaus before he has said it takes $84,000 a day to run the city with 425 employees.”

Bray said the committee needed more time to discuss this and that since it is a personnel matter, it should begin in the council’s administrative committee and then go forward from there.

Third Ward Councilman Bob Scrivner agreed and said that if the council decided they wanted to use the money this way they could still amend the budget later to do so.

A public meeting for citizens to give their thoughts on the proposed budget is planned for Aug.19 at City Hall.

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