Early retirement, vacancy savings keep city in black

2013 budget saved by mid-year cuts

Jefferson City survived a shaky fiscal year, thanks to drastic mid-year cuts and unanticipated savings from both an early retirement program and keeping vacant positions open.

Pre-audit figures for the 2013 budget show, overall, the city finished the fiscal year with roughly $287,000 left to spare, once grant funds the city budgeted, but neither spent nor received, are taken out of the final equation.

“Grants are placed in the budget even if we do not receive the funds during the fiscal year. Most grants are reimbursement grants over multiple years so we must spend the money before we can show the money as an actual revenue,” interim Finance Director Bill Betts wrote in an email. “Therefore, when you look at the revenue worksheet it shows that we missed projections by $2,633,558.84 however if you look at the two grant line items (Intergovernmental and Police) you will notice that there variance totals $2,433,873.21. So the actual non grant related variance is $199,685.63.”

But even though staff and elected officials drastically revised revenue projection last spring when a budget shortfall became apparent, the city still did not meet a number of its revenue projections, including sales tax.

Betts said it was the city’s early retirement program, which was introduced alongside a series of budget cuts last spring, and vacancy savings that kept the city in the black overall.

“We saved quite a bit there on the personnel,” Betts said. “We were slow in hiring a lot of positions.”

Human Resources Director Gail Strope said the current vacant positions at City Hall are:

  • City administrator, which will be filled March 10 by recent hire Steve Crowell;
  • Communications manager;
  • Two administrative assistants;
  • Finance director;
  • Building service worker;
  • Building and inspection division director;
  • Civil engineer;
  • Engineering designer;
  • Engineering supervisor, which staff is recommending be eliminated;
  • Fire chief;
  • Police captain;
  • Four police officers;
  • Police information clerk;
  • Three communication operators;
  • Communications supervisor;
  • MSAG/Records supervisor;
  • Two firefighters;
  • Fire training officer;
  • Two street maintenance workers;
  • Transit operations supervisor;
  • Bus driver; and
  • Deputy director of Parks and Recreation

Overall, 2013 revenues for the city’s general fund came in about $199,000 below projections. But with more than $480,000 in personnel savings, the city was able to finish the fiscal year with $287,000 left unspent.

The city’s financial documents for the 2013 fiscal year are still under review by auditors, a yearly process, but city officials aren’t anticipating any huge changes to come out of the final report.

“Things went really well, as far as we’re concerned,” Betts said. “They could change a little bit here, there.”

Last spring, and roughly four months into the 2013 fiscal year, city officials announced an expected $1.68 million shortfall for the year, due to falling sales tax revenues and incorrect projections. The City Council then approved a series of cuts to make up for the shortfall and introduced an early retirement, or SIP, program.

“We had more than we had expected take the SIP program,” Betts said.

Strope said the SIP program saved a total of $260,023 in the 2013 fiscal year, with 11 employees opting to take part in the program.

Considering the mid-year budget issues, city officials and staff are incredibly pleased to find the ending balance positive.

“If you can imagine if we hadn’t made those cuts, we would have missed our revenue projections by $1.88 million,” Betts said. “We would’ve probably found ourselves being in the red.”

During a Finance Committee meeting Tuesday, 2nd Ward Councilman Shawn Schulte congratulated the staff on their work with the 2013 budget, noting the city’s mid-year problems. He said the city can not control its revenue fluctuations, but expenses can be controlled and staff worked hard to keep those costs down.

Betts said no city department overspent its budget for the 2013 fiscal year.

Betts said the final budget figures for 2013 came within 1 percent of staff’s revised projections, something the finance staff is certainly happy with.

“It’s important that we made the changes that we made, even though they were tough and difficult,” Betts said.”Now that we’re at the end of the year, we see the fruit of that labor.”

And even though the first month of the city’s sales tax receipts for the 2014 fiscal year fell short of projections in all categories, Betts said he’s optimistic. Betts said many of the revenue streams that fell short of 2013 projections were already lowered in the 2014 budget, so he’s hoping there won’t be much difference felt.

“We feel really good about the 2014 budget,” Betts said.”I feel very comfortable with where things are headed right now.”

As for the 2015 budget, Betts is hoping some new software will help produce more accurate projections. Betts has been working on a revenue projection model that he hopes to present to the Finance Committee at the end of February.

“I think it will help give us a more clear indication of where we’ll be at the end of the year,” Betts said. “We certainly have our eyes on that future.”

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