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Council weighs funding for city planner positions

by Anna Watson | September 23, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

Whether Jefferson City should fund two planner positions and expenses for the Public Safety tax were the main topics during a city budget meeting Thursday.

Plenty of conversation took place, but no action was taken as nearly half of the City Council was absent. Present council members Jon Hensley, Laura Ward, Mike Lester, Jack Deeken and Scott Spencer -- along with Ron Fitzwater, who joined remotely -- agreed to prepare any motions for Monday.

Hensley suggested Monday's budget meeting might go longer than 90 minutes, saying it could be the council's last work session on the next fiscal year.

Before work is done and the budget is finalized, the council needs to approve it in bill form during a regular meeting. The current draft has the city spending more than $37.9 million from the general fund in 2023.

Finance Director Shiela Pearre tentatively suggested voting on the bill at the Oct. 17 council meeting.

Planner positions

Lester said he sees a real need for paying for two more planners, as he believes a certain amount of fiscal support relies on acquiring grants each year.

A chart on the screen showed grant acquisitions from 2022 and from past years, which Lester referred to when stating the ability to acquire grants is dependent on staff workload. In 2021, the city received about $34 million in grant funds. In 2022, about $79 million was received, according to the city documents.

Some council members spoke in favor of Lester's notion. For example, Fitzwater said he agreed, stating this resonated with experiences at his own workplace at the Missouri Pharmacy Association.

"I will say ... there is so much money in the system right now," he said. "I think staff has done a great job of identifying the grants that fit the needs of our community."

Fitzwater said he hopes the council takes a "serious look" at considering Lester's proposal.

Spencer did not speak in favor of it, stating he was concerned of federal grant opportunities lessening as the country prepares for a recession.

"It depends on what your interpretation of a recession is, and I think we already are in a recession, and we've got to prepare ourselves," he said. "So the federal printing presses, I think, are going to stop."

Public Safety tax fund

Nearly $3.3 million has accumulated in Public Safety tax and Hensley explained the method behind a few of his expense proposals. He suggested spending nearly $2.9 million from the fund and allotting about $418,000 in leftover money to the Public Safety fund balance, or its savings.

About $1 million of those funds were set aside to pay for a new contract the city is still negotiating with the local Fire Department union. Hensley suggested setting aside $50,000 to pay wage increases for the fire command staff, which will not be included in the contract.

Some funds were also designated to pay for a position to manage grants for the police department.

With a number of council members missing, Hensley said he would wait to motion for voting on those items until Monday.

Print Headline: Council weighs funding for city planner positions

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