Today's Edition About us Local Opinion Obits Sports Things to do Classifieds Newsletters Podcasts Contact us

Jefferson City budget panel votes to double parks administration fees

by Stephi Smith | September 19, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
Pinwheels are on display as part of the landscaping near the front entrance of the John G. Christy Municipal Building, also known as City Hall, April 30, 2020, in Jefferson City.

While the budget committee chairman cautioned his fellow council members the budget cycle is nearing its "bitter end," it didn't stop committee members from pushing forward with more and more adjustments to the draft budget.

Jon Hensley, budget committee chairman and Ward 5 councilman, made the comments Monday during a brief budget committee meeting before the Jefferson City Council meeting convened.

First among the adjustments was a change in how administrative chargeback fees are assessed for the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department.

The city's budget committee, which consists of 10 council members, voted Monday to increase the parks admin fees from $344,000 to $646,000, a $302,000 difference.

The city funds the administration department through collecting a percentage of enterprise funds revenue from different departments. How much each enterprise funds pays in administration fees is calculated and varies based on how much revenue the department collects and how much administrative services the department uses throughout the year, said Finance Director Shiela Pearre.

Currently, Pearre said, it's been practice for more than 15 years for the sum of the parks administrative chargeback fee to cap at 5 percent of the revenue from the past 12 months of sales tax.

"I am starting my 15th year, and I've never seen any documentation that justifies (the 5 percent cap)," Pearre said. "I suppose there could be, but I have never seen any."

Ward 3 Councilman Scott Spencer suggested the increase in administration fees last week. He said it was to ensure the parks department was treated fairly during the city's annual budget cycle.

If parks were to use the same calculations as the other special revenue accounts or enterprise funds, the parks department would put more than $640,000 back in the city's budget, he said.

There are also other enterprise funds that pay more in administrative fees, Pearre said

She said the finance department spends a lot of time throughout the year assisting the city's parking division with sending invoices for parking tickets; this increased use of service from the finance department has therefore led to the parking division paying more in fees.

In comments made last week in a budget committee meeting, former Jefferson City Mayor John Landwehr said more than doubling the fees for parks would be "governing by impulse." His comment resulted in a heated exchange with Ward 5 Councilman Mark Schwartz, who responded to Landwehr's comments again Monday.

Schwartz said the methodology the committee is considering is actually less impulsive that what previously existed.

If anything, Schwartz continued, setting the parks department's fee cap at 5 percent was more impulsive.

"We're not making up a number," Schwartz said. "We're actually governing by math ... If we want to be consistent, which I think is the goal, we need to be consistently consistent across the board."

Ward 2 Councilman Mike Lester said he doesn't remember why the 5 percent was chosen specifically, but he recalls the decrease was due to the fact that the parks department, at the time, did not collect very much revenue due to providing more free services.

"I do know doing it that way did seem to be incentive for parks to keep doing and finding services that generate money. But that's just a conjecture on my part," Lester said.

He also said parks is "just different," and should therefore be charged differently in order to cover administrative expenditures.

But, Pearre disagreed. From her perspective, she said, the parks department, like every other department, makes significant use of the administrative department.

"At least in finance and IT, the services that are used in parks are very similar to the services used in other funds as well," she said.

Ward 2 Councilman Aaron Mealy suggested adjusting how the chargeback fees are calculated altogether.

Mealy said he doesn't agree with parks -- and every other enterprise fund -- paying for all services within the administration department when they likely don't use all the services.

He said he'd rather have city staff attempt to calculate how much of each administrative service -- and how much each department uses the administration department altogether.

"If we're going to do this the right way, let's do it the right way," Mealy said.

But Pearre disagreed with this approach, saying the methodology for the chargeback fees accurately represents each department, since a larger operating budget likely requires more use of the administration services and a department with more operating expenses would pay more and a department with less expenses would pay less in administrative fees.

She also said the Government Finance Operators Association does not suggest to municipalities how to calculate these fees, only to allocate covering the expenditures from the administration department across all funds.

With the funding from the increased Parks chargeback fees, Schwartz proposed $210,000 would go toward one snow plow and $50,000 to the Jefferson City Police Department for radios in police vehicles.

Mealy said he fully disagreed with using funds from the parks account for public works and public safety needs. He said the city should adjust other areas of the budget, specifically public works or the JCPD, in order to fund things like vehicles and other long-term equipment.

"It's not like something sprung up," he said. "So I'm not sure why such a dire need to divert funds from parks exists."

Hensley said increasing the parks chargeback fees would "bring parks in line" from the divergence that occurred almost 20 years ago when the administrative chargeback fees for parks was set to 5 percent of sales tax revenue.

Hensley said he was completely unaware in his first year as a city council member of the "special treatments" the parks department was receiving in regards to these fees. And Hensley said he's also never heard somebody explain to him the reasoning behind the 5 percent cap.

"No one over the past three years has articulated what I've seen as a compelling justification for why the special treatment for parks should continue," Hensley said.

Furthermore, he said, the fact that the fees are more than doubling "only shows the extraordinary discount parks has received."

The budget committee voted 7-2 to increase the chargeback fees for parks. Voting in favor was Schwartz, Spencer, Hensley, Ward 1 Councilman Jack Deeken, Ward 3 Councilwoman Erin Wiseman and Ward 4 Councilmen Randy Wright and Derrick Spicer. Voting against the change was Ward 2 Councilmen Lester and Mealy. Ward 1 Councilman Jeff Ahlers was absent.

After the vote, Schwartz removed the items on the parking lot he had added last week that would have used funds from the half-cent capital improvement sales tax revenue originally allocated for parks. The budget committee has been debating whether to forego providing parks with its typical 10 percent of the total sales tax revenue in order to fund other needs for next year's budget.

Spencer also removed from the parking lot an allocation from the general fund's capital improvement sales tax for funding the Jefferson City Memorial Airport and some public works sewer projects.

The final attempt to adjust the budget came from Mealy, who proposed removing funds for a new public relations coordinator for the city. He proposed using the $118,000 allocated by Mayor Ron Fitzwater in his budget proposal to fund a new department specifically for seeking and applying for federal grants.

"Any time we can increase revenue here in Jefferson City through grants and decrease a need for citizens, that's one of the most valuable things we can do," Mealy said.

But Deeken said this would be "horrible practice" for the city to partake in because he said it's not a sustainable and ongoing source of revenue.

Schwartz said it was "almost a slap in the face" to Fitzwater to propose to remove something he added to the budget.

"It was one of the few things -- one of the only things -- the mayor asked for in his budget," Schwartz said.

But Mealy said his constituents likely don't see a need for a public relations coordinator and that they'd prefer funding go toward fixing roads and building purposeful infrastructure.

"I think we have enough six-figure salaries," Mealy said.

Mealy also proposed an amendment to a proposal Schwartz made last week regarding the budget's parking lot.

Schwartz had motioned to transfer $253,200 from the city's parking enterprise fund to the general fund to purchase four police vehicles and fund the remaining $20,000 for crash reconstruction equipment for the Jefferson City Police Department (JCPD).

Despite having voted yes on this proposal, Mealy said he hadn't been paying close attention and motioned to remove the item from the parking lot.

He said he didn't agree with Schwartz's original reasoning behind moving the funds; Schwartz had cited a recent ordinance that amended a city code stating parking enforcement officers have the ability to arrest people.

Mealy said he understands this change to have just been on paperwork since Public Works Director Matt Morasch and City Attorney Ryan Moehlman both said the code had not recently been in practice. Morasch also said most parking division employees were unaware of such a code.

Schwartz said he doesn't agree with changing something that was only very recently voted on and approved.

"I don't know why we have a motion if we can just willy-nilly 'I voted for that, but I don't want to do that anymore,'" Schwartz said.

Both of Mealy's proposal will be voted upon during the next budget committee, which is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the council chambers.


Video of this budget committee meeting is available on YouTube at


See also:

Council changes city’s health insurance provider

Print Headline: Budget panel: Double parks admin fees


Sponsor Content