Jefferson City municipal gov't bracing for tough fiscal year

A JeffTran bus traverses a Jefferson City street in this March 4, 2012, file photo.

A JeffTran bus traverses a Jefferson City street in this March 4, 2012, file photo. Photo by Julie Smith.

Jefferson City is continuing to struggle with tight finances and now is beginning to brace itself for a difficult 2015 fiscal year.

At the Finance Committee meeting Tuesday, interim Finance Director Bill Betts said the 2015 fiscal year is more than one year away, but the council needs to be aware of nearly $900,000 in additional funds that will be needed.

“It’s a big number,” Betts said. “Granted, we’re 13 months away.”

Betts said $300,000 will be needed to fully fund the city’s transit system, plus additional salary expenses for a full-time fire chief, city administrator and finance director, as well as expected increases to the city’s insurance costs. Right now, Betts said, it looks like the city will need to find $896,500 to fully fund operations in 2015.

That number also assumes open positions created through vacancy savings and the city’s early retirement program will remain open, Betts said.

“It’s a $900,000 nut that we have to crack,” Betts said. “We do have a plan.”

Betts said the city also is hoping to see some increased growth, though that is more difficult to predict. He said the city hopes to see increased sales taxes by that point, in part because of large-scale projects that will be underway or finished such as the new St. Mary’s Health Center and the Capital Region Medical Center expansion.

“There will be some projected growth,” Betts said. “It’s a very difficult number to gauge at this time.”

Betts said the city has been in talks with Sam’s Club, which is expected to open in Jefferson City in 2015, about expected sales, but said no one is really sure about how much sales tax revenue will be generated by the new store.

Second Ward Councilman Shawn Schulte said the council needs to keep looking as far ahead as possible to better plan current and future spending.

First Ward Councilman Rick Prather also said it’s important for the council to have this information, even if it’s not what they hoped for.

“It’s good to have that information,” said 1st Ward Councilman Rick Prather. “Wish it was better.”

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