Jefferson City budget process nears end

Almost no changes made to mayor’s proposed budget

Chris Weber uses the iPad to enter an order and add the total, including sales tax. Jefferson City's operating budget is funded heavily by the tax which accounts for 34 percent of its revenue. Weber was helping out at Thursday's United Way fundraiser sponsored by Hawthorn Bank and G2 Catering.

Chris Weber uses the iPad to enter an order and add the total, including sales tax. Jefferson City's operating budget is funded heavily by the tax which accounts for 34 percent of its revenue. Weber was helping out at Thursday's United Way fundraiser sponsored by Hawthorn Bank and G2 Catering. Photo by Julie Smith.

Jefferson City’s budget process is nearing the end of discussions, and City Council members say this year has been an overall smooth process.

The 2014 budget has been discussed by the council for the past month, but 2nd Ward Councilman and Budget Committee Chairman Shawn Schulte said he hopes the council can wrap up discussions Monday.

In a tight fiscal year, the council so far has made no changes to the budget proposed by Mayor Eric Struemph, a stark change from past years. Schulte said part of that is because there’s just no extra money, but also that Struemph had done a good job with his budget.

“The funding’s just not there,” Schulte said. “I have to give credit to the mayor, too ... I think he did a good job of personally setting his priorities.”

Schulte said he suspects more debate will begin Monday on other items of the budget.

First Ward Councilman Rick Prather said the lack of changes to Struemph’s proposed budget is a result of the tight finances.

“There’s just not a whole lot we can find in that budget to pay for other things,” Prather said.

Second Ward Councilman J. Rick Mihalevich said the tight budget has led to fewer discussions and forcing council members to really look at priorities, especially with the new policy put in place by Schulte that any proposal for funding from a council member has to come with an accompanying cut.

Fifth Ward Councilman Ralph Bray said the city has less money to work with, which leaves council members limited on what they can fund or change.

Prather said for those council members who are able to find any money, they may be waiting to bring up their wish lists until the next budget meeting Monday night.

Third Ward Councilman Ken Hussey agreed, saying he wanted to hear the department directors’ presentations before getting into council debates and proposals. The last department presentation, from the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department, will happen Monday.

“I suspect I’m not the only council member who is thinking that way,” Hussey said. “I would not be surprised if Monday night you didn’t start to see some proposed changes to the budget, some deeper conversations about those things.”

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Carrie Carroll said the process has run smoothly and the budget is too tight to find room for many changes. Carroll said she believes the council will wrap up discussions fairly quickly.

“I think we’re really close,” Carroll said. “When you’re in a budget that’s so tight, you almost know you can’t ask for things that you might want.”

Fourth Ward Councilman Carlos Graham said he believes the council may need several more meetings before they can finalize the budget, as he is not in a place where is comfortable with the budget as is.

“I don’t think there has been a real healthy discussion,” Graham said.

Schulte said he’s very happy with the process so far and the work of the city’s Finance Department in making changes requested by the council to help with more accurate budgeting practices.

“I have not heard any negatives with the format,” Schulte said. “I think we’ve made great strides from last year’s process.”

Prather said the added information and changes to the budget process, including using five years of actuals, has made the process much easier.

“I can’t see a better way to do it,” Prather said. “I very much appreciate how it’s gone so far.”

Bray said the process has gone so smoothly because of the changes this year.

“It’s amazing how much easier it is with lots of good information,” Bray said. “It’s just great to have all that information.”

Fifth Ward Councilman Larry Henry said the process has been a lot better than it has been in the past and run much more smoothly this year.

Hussey said he’s been pleased with the process this year, adding it’s been a thorough review of the departments.

Hussey said the budget discussions may not be able to be finished Monday and urged members of the public to contact their representatives to provide input.

“I’m not certain that we’ll get there,” Hussey said.

Mihalevich said a positive change this year also has been that all budget meetings have been broadcast on JCTV and streamed online.

Mayor Eric Struemph said he’s happy with the process this year and encouraged people to contact him or council members with any input on the budget.

“I think we’re getting close to the end of the process,” Struemph said.

The Budget Committee will meet at 5:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

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