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Eldon aldermen opt for conservative budget

Eldon aldermen opt for conservative budget

January 12th, 2019 by Danisha Hogue in Local News

ELDON — After almost a month of discussion, the Eldon Board of Aldermen adopted a bare-bones 2019 budget Wednesday that denies many request by city departments for salary raises, tools and vehicle purchases.

The board considered four budget options at a Jan. 7 workshop, ultimately approving the draft referred to as “Option C” with many cuts from last year at Wednesday’s bi-monthly board meeting.

Aldermen said the board was uncomfortable adopting a large budget with inaccurate numbers from the budget software. City officials said issues with reports have hindered the city for over a year.

“We still have a lot of work to do trying to get these numbers to where they’re matching up and they’re correct,” Ward 3 Alderman Bryon Hull said.

The city is switching from its current software provider, Daffron, to a new system called Summit.

“Our numbers aren’t necessarily inaccurate; it’s the reporting,” City Administrator Debbie Feeback said.

The approved budget allows for a $572,171 transfer from water reserves if needed and $56,229 transfers from general fund reserves. City officials said this was done to balance the budget and may not reflect what happens in the next 12 months.

Water and sewer line projects for updates on Route Y this year could use these funds. City officials said improvements will benefit potential buildings down the road.

“Option C has no salary increases, and other than two departments, none of the additional positions,” Feeback said during the Jan. 7 workshop.

A vacancy in the police department will be filled, as well as a dispatch employee.

City officials agreed the budget will need to be reviewed in April at the end of the first quarter. They hope to make changes that better suit employees and the city at that time.

“The budget’s a tool, and we have to take a look at what we feel we’ll end up with. … We need to make the adjustments as the flow of the business goes and the flow of expenditures go and things of that nature,” Mayor Larry Henderson said.

City departments submitted written and verbal requests to the board during a budget workshop last month. Most of these requests will be unmet by the approved 2019 budget.

Police Chief Brian Kidwell had requested 1-3 percent raises for officers, varying by seniority.

“They earned it … because of how they do their job,” Kidwell said.

In 2018, the police department spent $519,345.66 on salaries and wages and an additional $9,739.73 was spent in overtime. The 2019 budget projects $508,965 to be spent on police salaries and $7,000 on overtime.

Fire Chief Randy Vernon’s requests totaled more than $1.5 million.

“The fire department covers all calls within the city limits of Eldon and has statewide mutual aid agreements,” Vernon wrote in the request. “The department responds to 1,200-plus emergency calls annually and a wide variety of other duties depending on the needs of the community.”

Vernon had requested 11 priority items including tools, money for training and $26,224 worth of raises for full-time employees.

The department did receive a $336,000 assistance to firefighters grant to use for self-contained breathing apparatus bottles and fire gear. The city will match $16,000 of the grant.

“It’s been about 15 or 16 years since I’ve gotten to purchase fire gear for everybody,” Vernon said.

Vernon said the department will make do with what it was given in the budget and apply for more grants if needed.

Public Works Director John Brockmeier said he remains hopeful about budget adjustments after the first quarter.

Some major projects for the city received the green light in the final version of the budget, including sidewalk and airport projects scheduled to take place this year.

A Missouri Department of Transportation Surface Transportation Program grant the city received previously must be spent before Sept. 30. The $39,000 will be used to asphalt overlay part of Industrial Drive that has significantly deteriorated. The city will match $9,774.45 for the project plus $5,000 in engineering costs.

Repair work for the airport taxiway is budgeted at $66,535.

City employees will see a slight decrease in health insurance premiums this year, but will counter it with higher deductibles.