After about a month of discussion, the Jefferson City Budget Committee approved the 2018 budget with minor changes from the mayor-approved budget, sending it to the Jefferson City Council on Monday.
At Monday's Budget Committee meeting, $750,000 was put toward stormwater work, but Thursday, that item was unanimously removed after Ward 1 Councilman Rick Prather informed the committee a bill proposing supplemental appropriation of $750,000 toward stormwater for the 2017 fiscal year will be presented to the council Monday.
When a project costs less than anticipated or a city employee leaves, the extra money is set aside and accumulates. The estimated overage of the fund balance is $3 million, said Margie Mueller, director of the Finance Department.
The bill proposes using $750,000 of that $3 million toward stormwater issues. Prather said the bill will make the funds available immediately instead of the Public Works Department having to wait to receive those funds in the 2018 fiscal year.
Ward 2 Councilman Rick Mihalevich said removing the $750,000 from the suggested 2018 draft budget changes was a "wink and a nod" that the council will approve the bill at Monday's meeting.
Ward 3 Councilman Ken Hussey suggested the council continue to discuss ways to improve the stormwater system.
"We're addressing stormwater and it's still a long-term issue for us, and it's been how many months since we last had that discussion, that debate on a ballot measure," Hussey said. "I think it's our responsibility to start working on that again, whether that's a ballot measure or some kind of long-term funding fix. We have a responsibility and we shouldn't leave here and leave Monday night having put $750,000 towards it and, 'Oh, we fixed the issue.' I think we have a responsibility to do more and do it quickly."
In May, the City Council voted against placing a stormwater utility fee proposal on an August ballot.
Hussey also recommended the council set a time to discuss the draft list of fund balance projects city staff created. A couple of the suggested top priorities were fixing Lincoln Street and contributing to the construction of Fire Station No. 2. Stormwater was not listed as a priority on the sheet.
Another change to the mayor-approved budget was funding a Planner 1 position, which was a priority pink sheet item submitted by the Department of Planning and Protective Works. According to the pink sheet request, the planner will help implement the city's plans and "allow for renewed focus on long-range planning tasks and increase in flexibility of the division."
The salary for the planner would be $58,800, and the city would pay a one-time $2,000 cost for a desk and office supplies for the position, bringing the pink sheet request to a total of $60,800.
Ward 2 Councilwoman Laura Ward made a motion Monday to fund the position, but it was voted down by the committee. On Wednesday night, Ward said Sonny Sanders, director of the Planning and Protective Works Department, spoke with her and said he would prefer funds for the two inspection vehicles — totally $50,000 — be put toward the planner position instead, offsetting part of the $60,800 expense. This left a shortfall of $10,800.
Hussey recommended pro-rating the position because by delaying the hiring, the city will save some money. The committee approved funding $48,000 for the position and $2,000 for the desk and office supplies. The two inspection vehicles will not be funded.
"We have a lot of things going on in our older neighborhoods and we have a lot of areas not zoned correctly. And we have a lot of plans that are coming forward for us to vote on, and if we're going to vote on those plans, then I think we need to have some staff expertise in order to implement those," Ward said.
The City Council could still amend the budget before approving it.